World Cup wrap: Kiwis cruise, Bennett’s blunt interview

The New Zealand team perform a haka during their Rugby League World Cup game against Scotland in Christchurch
The New Zealand team perform a haka during their Rugby League World Cup game against Scotland in Christchurch

Wayne Bennett seemed irked in his post-match interview after England’s 29-10 win against Lebanon.

Some took to social media to criticise the Australian boss for giving one-word replies to questions from the BBC’s Dave Woods.

But he did explain the late call-up to Warriors’ George Williams.

“I just wanted to give George Williams a game, so (Roby) missed the game for that,” said Bennett, who also brought in Wiganer Stefan Ratchford for injured Jonny Lomax.

“(Jonny) hurt his calf muscle in training through the week,” the England head coach said on BBC Two. “He’ll probably miss next week and should be back after that.”

On whether the match official was to blame for the scoreline and performance not being as emphatic as expected, he said: “Can’t blame the referee. A lower margin went against us. We got a couple that went for us, so...”

Leeds winger Ryan Hall was among the try-scorers, taking his record tally for his country to 33 in 34 Tests on a cool, wet night in Sydney.

England were far from impressive, however, and the match was marred by an allegation of biting levelled by Lebanon captain Robbie Farah against winger Jermaine McGillvary, another of the try-scorers.

Referee Ben Thaler did not punish the Huddersfield player but put the incident on report and it will be scrutinised by the tournament’s match-review panel on Monday.

St Helens prop Alex Walmsley made a solid debut and Warrington second-rower Ben Currie scored his first try for his country.

At 6-6, the large Lebanese contingent among the 10,237 crowd began to sense an upset but reality quickly set in as England demonstrated the necessary patience to keep their opponents at jabbing distance away.

Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin and John Bateman also figured.

Earlier, Scotland coach Steve McCormack could not hide his disappointment after his side were crushed 74-6 by New Zealand in their latest World Cup match.

The Bravehearts conceded 14 tries to the rampant Kiwis in Christchurch and have now leaked 124 points in their first two games, but will still reach the quarter-finals if they beat Samoa in their final group game in Cairns next weekend.

The Scots, hammered 50-4 by Tonga in Cairns, trailed 28-0 at half-time and were 64-0 down when half-back Oscar Thomas scored their only try.

“It was a tough night,” said McCormack, a Wiganer who has a role at the Warriors. “It was always a danger that, if we didn’t turn up and be at our best, something like that could happen.

“I’m really disappointed in that performance, although I thought New Zealand were really good. In the first half they had 21 or 22 offloads and they played a good brand of football.”

Scrum-half Shaun Johnson scored a try and kicked nine goals for a personal haul of 22 points that took him past Matthew Ridge’s all-time New Zealand record of 168, while winger Peta Hiku and stand-off Te Maire Martin both grabbed hat-tricks.

Wigan’s Thomas Leuluai was one of several Kiwi players rested.

Tonga set up a mouthwatering clash with New Zealand by overpowering Pacific rivals Samoa 32-18 in Hamilton.

Street violence involving opposing fans marred the build-up to the eagerly anticipated showdown but the rival players embraced and came together for a prayer just before kick-off in a show of unity.

Peni Terepo and Warrington-bound Ben Murdoch-Masila appeared to put Tonga out of sight but they needed a late try from Manu Ma’u to settle it after Castleford half-back Ben Roberts and Timoteo Lafai had cut the deficit to eight points.

Tonga will return to Waikato Stadium next Saturday to take on New Zealand in a battle to secure top spot in Group B.

Samoa will face Scotland, with the winners securing the third quarter-final spot from their group.