England secure Autumn series with win against Tonga


England clinched the Autumn series with a game to spare as they marched to a 14-4 win over Tonga at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The sides now turn their attention to Headingley, with England on the hunt for a clean sweep.

A Matty Ashton double was the difference between the sides on a wet day in West Yorkshire; but both teams had plenty of chances to score.

After a physical opening exchanges, a piece of Tonga ill-discipline created England’s first chance at points; and Matty Ashton gleefully took this. Quick hands from Leeds Rhinos centre Harry Newman found the Warrington Wolves winger in space, and he made no mistake as he crossed the whitewash. Harry Smith was on hand to add the extras, and the home side led 6-0.

The Wire winger was in the thick of it again, as he denied Tolutua Koula a chance to score with a brilliant diving tackle to drag the Tongan into touch.

Koula would be denied another great chance just five minutes later. The winger sliced through the England defence, but couldn’t hold onto the greasy ball and the chance went begging. To rub salt into his wounds, England would extend their lead to 8-0 from the very next set as Harry Smith slotted a goal.

Another sustained period of Tongan pressure followed, but the home side would make the next dent in the scoreboard. Mikey Lewis’ grubber kick would cause all sorts of bother on the greasy surface, and Matty Ashton took full advantage of this as he pounced to score his second try of the afternoon.

Harry Smith couldn’t add his third goal, but England took a deserved 12-0 lead into the sheds.

England were presented a golden opportunity to add another four points early in the second half. A wicked spiral kick from Harry Smith was well collected by Matty Ashton. The Wire winger found Mike McMeeken, who put in a brilliant kick for his club-mate Tom Johnstone, but he spilled the ball and Tonga escaped scot free.

They would eventually grow their lead, as Harry Smith notched another goal to make it 14-0.

With the game in the balance, the next try felt crucial; and it fell to the tourists.

A sweeping move out to the left edge found the ball in Koula’s hands, and this time he made no mistake as he dived over in the corner for his sides first points. Isaiya Katoa couldn’t add the extras, but the Tongans were right back in the game.

England very nearly hit back through Mikey Lewis, with the Hull KR halfback coming within an inch of the whitewash, but ultimately England couldn’t convert this chance.

The visitors would pile on the pressure at the end, but England would stand tall to grind out a 14-4 win and secure the Autumn series with a game to spare.

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