Far from overjoyed despite earning a 29-10 victory over Lebanon at Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday evening, England coach Wayne Bennett was quick to dismiss any thoughts that his team headed into the Week Two match unprepared for a gallant Cedars outfit.
Scoring the match’s first points in the ninth minute, before crossing for three-consecutive tries in an eight-minute window leading into the half-time break, the English found joy in the form of a four-pointer only once after the change of ends.
“But there was no complacency, it was just our decision-making processes, execution, all though things,” Bennett said post-match.
“These games are difficult, because you’re expected to win them and no one really knows by how much you should win them.
“I was really pleased with our ball control and the way we played good field position on them. I thought we defended well, we didn’t have to do a lot on them in the first-half.
“We just lost our way in the second-half, with the football particularly. Defensively we stood up, and I was really pleased with that, but we have to be better than that.”
An all-but even split of possession across the 80 minutes ensured that Lebanon, though not looking likely to cause an upset, remained within striking distance for long periods of the contest.
Holding 46 per cent of possession and completing 28 of their 33 sets with ball in hand, the Cedars stuck with the touted English outfit – forcing Bennett’s men to work hard for their win.
“It was just good to get off [the field], to get the win. We came in [to the sheds] pleased at half-time, but we didn’t finish the game off the way we wanted to. We lost our way a little bit,” England captain Sean O’Loughlin said of the 19-point triumph.
“The boys were trying, it was probably just a bit more [a lack of] execution. We weren’t quite nailing the passes or making the right decisions, maybe pushing it a little bit too much at times.
“I thought [Lebanon] were strong … I thought they really had a dig, they had some big, strong forwards and they threw the ball around well. They asked questions of us, which is good for us to get that threat in [defence], they were impressive.”
Now two games into the World Cup campaign, and aware of the challenges the minnow teams bring with them, veteran coach Bennett remains hopeful of an improved performance when England meets France at the Perth Rectangular Stadium next Sunday (12 November).
“We just want to set a standard for ourselves which I know we can handle, and live up to,” he said.
“We won’t have to go into these games second guessing ourselves at the end of it.”