England 44-6 France: England too strong for France at Leigh Sports Village
Last Updated: 17/10/18 11:28pm
Winger Tom Johnstone scored a first-half hat-trick on debut as England flexed their muscles ahead of the Test series against New Zealand with a 44-6 rout of France in Leigh.
The Wakefield flyer was one of four new caps hoping to stake a claim for spots against the Kiwis and he took his chance to impress head coach Wayne Bennett with three tries in 24 minutes.
Johnstone's Trinity team-mate Reece Lyne and Castleford second rower Oliver Holmes also caught the eye on their first appearances.
But Bennett will not be getting carried away by the victory over a French team that included seven new faces of their own in the absence of a host of regulars.
But Bennett will be able to bolster his squad with the Grand Finalists from Wigan and Warrington for the first Test against New Zealand on Saturday week.
It took England under two minutes to get the scoreboard ticking over against the French as prop Tom Burgess looked to offload from the tackle, only to back his way over the line for a try.
Johnstone then outsprinted his opposite number to touch down full-back Jamie Shaul's grubber kick for his first try.
The Wakefield man took advantage of a lucky deflection to grab his second, and completed his hat-trick on 25 minutes by gathering the ball from half-back Jake Connor's high kick.
Holmes produced some good touches on his first appearance and it was from his half-break that stand-off Richie Myler scored the next try to extend the lead to 26-0 - which provided an opportunity for Bennett to give the Burgess brothers a rest.
There was no respite for the French, though, as loose forward Adam Milner got his fellow replacement Luke Thompson over for a nicely worked try, while the half-backs combined to get second rower Elliott Whitehead over just before the break, when England led 38-0.
The scoring slowed up in the second half as Bennett rang the changes and the game, watched by a crowd of 5,144 at the Sports Village, went quiet.
But Connor, who kicked five first-half conversions, scored England's only try in the second half in spectacular fashion, leaping off balance to gather and touch down Myler's kick, and Mark Percival added the goal.
St Helens stand-off Theo Fages then ensured there would be no whitewash, as he dummied his way over for a 63rd-minute consolation try, to which William Barthau added the goal.