Knights cruise past Ireland
The England Knights gave national team coach Steve McNamara the comfort of knowing he has strength in depth as they brushed past Ireland at Langtree Park.
In a fixture serving as the curtain raiser for England's meeting with the Exiles, the red rose's second string ran in 11 tries in a one-sided encounter played in testing conditions.
While McNamara is not short on options for his side - the likes of Tom Briscoe and Danny Brough have been jettisoned this week - he is open to having his mind changed and a number Keiron Purtill's players did their best to do just that.
The stand-out performers included Leeds' two-try centre Zak Hardaker, the half-back pairing of Stefan Ratchford and Matty Smith and Hull KR hooker Josh Hodgson, although all praise has to be tempered by the fact they were playing an Ireland side largely made up of part-time players and one that tired badly in the second half.
Such an outcome was aways expected, as is the nature of international rugby league beyond the leading lights of Australia, England and New Zealand, although Ireland did remain competitive for the first half at least.
Not put off by playing in front of a sparse crowd, the Knights set about their eye-catching mission well by opening the scoring in the sixth minute when Hardaker touched Smith's kick down, but Ireland impressed after that, with Adam Hughes only denied a try by Jermaine McGilivray's tackle.
The Huddersfield winger injured himself in the process, though, and was replaced by Gary Wheeler, with Ben Jones-Bishop switching to the right flank as part of the reshuffle.
The move inadvertently worked in England's favour with 19 minutes gone, with the Leeds man scoring in the corner to increase the home side's lead.
Ratchford's looping cut-out pass gave Jones-Bishop room to run in to but, the try still needed scoring, with him having to wriggle out of Ian Cross' grasp to touch down.
To their credit, Ireland were not willing to buckle and responded with a try of their own nine minutes later when impressive centre John O'Donnell went on an angled run that Jones-Bishop was unable to halt close to the line.
Featherstone's Liam Finn took on conversion duties from the touchline but dragged his effort just wide, ending his world-record run of 41 successive goal kicks.
At 10-4 the score was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Knights' credentials to step up to the full side and they immediately set about trying to put that right, with Chris Riley going in after a neat pass from Ratchford.
Smith then punted a 40-20 kick to give England a bonus set before the break and they were able to cash in on it too, with Hardaker taking three men with him over the line for a second that suggested Ireland were starting to tire.
That trend carried over into the second half with Smith getting the try his industry deserved with 49 minutes gone, although his close-range dart owed everything to Dale Ferguson's excellent offload.
Five tries quickly became six as Jodie Broughton showed some tidy finishing ability to get around Joseph Taylor and dot down in the corner, before England really cut loose to lay on a flowing three-man move that included Scott Taylor, Chris Clarkson and Smith and ended with Mark Flanagan going in under the posts.
The game was definitely over as a contest by this point and England were able to score at will, something they did when Hardaker burst through and laid on a walk-in try for Hodgson, now operating as a makeshift loose forward.
Little value could be placed on the scores by this point, with the Ireland side clearly done, but England continued none the less, with Broughton putting Ratchford over, Hardaker unselfishly playing in Shaun Lunt and Jones-Bishop grabbing a close-range second.