Jermaine McGillvary put the bite into England as they flexed their muscles for the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a comprehensive 36-6 defeat of France in Perth.
The Huddersfield winger, who was cleared to play in England’s final group game after being found not guilty of biting Lebanon captain Robbie Farah, scored two of his side’s seven tries to take his total for the World Cup to four and his overall tally to nine in as many Tests.
McGillvary was among a host of impressive performers as Wayne Bennett’s men brushed aside the challenge of the French to warm up for next Sunday’s clash with Papua New Guinea in Melbourne, to the delight of the big contingent of England fans among the 14,744 crowd at the Rectangular Stadium.
Bennett opted to rest five players in order to give the remainder of his 24-man squad a run-out before the knock-out stages and he was given plenty to ponder, with Gareth Widdop revelling in his old full-back role, hooker James Roby pressing his claims for a regular spot and front rower Alex Walmsley cementing his place in the side with a storming display off the bench.
Poor France hardly knew what hit them during England’s explosive start, certainly loose forward Jason Baitieri had no clue after coming off the worst from an attempted tackle on Mike McMeeken after just 40 seconds.
Baitieri returned to the action midway through the first half only to find his team already out of contention and exiting the World Cup after leaking three tries in a seven-minute spell that showed England meant business.
It was the Widdop show from the moment he sliced through a back-pedalling French defence for the opening try after two minutes.
Winger Stefan Ratchford quickly followed him over the line after accepting Ben Currie’s pass and prop James Graham nabbed a rare try for his country after Mark Percival’s offload near the line created a yawning gap in the French defence.
Widdop then demonstrated his craft to get Percival over for a try and his co-centre John Bateman proved unstoppable from 10 metres out as he claimed England’s fifth try of the first half.
England had little defending to do in the opening period and Bennett will be disappointed at the way they lost concentration to allow Benjamin Garcia to dummy his way over for a 34th-minute try, which Lucas Albert converted.
It was a minor blemish, though, as England continued to dominate, without fully pressing home their advantage.
McGillvary, who more than made up for a first-half handling error with a series of strong runs, added to his growing tally of tries by taking Widdop’s pass to score straight from a scrum within two minutes of the re-start and accepted a cut-out pass from McMeeken to grab his second of the match after 64 minutes.
Ratchford also had a try disallowed and England’s victory margin would have been greater but for Widdop missing with three of his seven kicks at goal.