Charnley to the fore as Wales thrashed
Wigan Warriors winger Josh Charnley grabbed four tries on his international debut as England put Wales to the sword 80-12 in their opening autumn international in Wrexham.
Charnley, whose 31 tries enabled him to finish top of the Super League list in 2012, continued his prolific form as England outclassed a gallant but limited Welsh side in front of 4,014 fans at the Racecourse Ground.
Leeds Rhinos stand-off Kevin Sinfield kicked 24 points on his first appearance as captain of the national side and took the man-of-the-match award for his playmaking skills as England secured their place in the November 11 final.
France will hope to provide more resistance to Steve McNamara’s men in next week’s game at Hull KR’s Craven Park before the two meet again in the tournament decider at the City of Salford Stadium.
England, with seven players winning their first caps, ran in 14 tries but fell just short of their record 74-0 win over Wales in Bridgend in 2009.
Wales’ sixth consecutive defeat leaves Iestyn Harris with still much to do if he is to realise his dream of achieving a place in the world’s top three by 2016, while McNamara will be delighted with his side’s first run-out of the autumn.
The warning signs for the Welsh were there in the third minute when second rower Gareth Ellis got centre Kallum Watkins bursting through the Welsh defence only to be brought back for a forward pass.
Left winger Ryan Hall, whose lethal finishing was too good for Australia in last year’s Gillette Four Nations Series, opened England’s account on nine minutes when he took Richie Myler’s cut-out pass to slide over for his eighth try for his country.
Charnley then grabbed his first, taking Watkins’ fine pass after Sinfield had twice handled in the move, and Zak Hardaker scored the first of his two, finishing off a break by loose forward Sean O’Loughlin.
Sinfield, who missed his first conversion attempt and struck the woodwork with his second, succeeded at the third attempt to make it 14-0 after the first quarter.
Watkins was the first to O’Loughlin’s grubber kick to score his first try for his country and Hardaker produced another skilful finish after collecting a smart offload from second rower Gareth Hock to register his second try.
Although outclassed, Wales never lost their enthusiasm and, after right winger Elliott Kear had gone close, centre Christiaan Roets raised their spirits with a try on the stroke of half-time, touching down wide out after skipper Craig Kopczak had fed the ball back from the line.
Matty Seamark’s touchline goal cut the deficit to 26-6 and he was on target early in the second half after replacement forward Dan Fleming shrugged off Hock’s attempted tackle to score a second Wales try.
However, England remained firmly in control, with Hall and Charnley both scoring their second tries in the third quarter and Sinfield sending Ellis over for one.
When Hock burst through to put hooker Rob Burrow over for England’s ninth try on the hour, Sinfield’s seventh conversion brought up his side’s half-century.
Wales’ gallant efforts then began to take their toll and Charnley seized on a dropped ball in the home 20-metre area to complete his hat-trick on 65 minutes.
England were in no mood to show any leniency as Leroy Cudjoe grabbed two tries in the last 12 minutes, Charnley went over for his fourth and second rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan went past tiring defenders for another try.