Tomkins: We must get better
Sam Tomkins took no satisfaction from an encouraging England performance in their 28-20 defeat to Australia in Saturday's World Cup opener.
Humiliated by minnows Italy and dogged by off-field disciplinary issues, Steve McNamara's men defied all expectations by pushing the Kangaroos all the way in an action-packed start to the 14th Rugby League World Cup in front of a 45,052 crowd at the Millennium Stadium.
England made a dream start, catching the Aussies cold by storming into a 10-0 lead thanks to tries from threequarters Ryan Hall and Leroy Cudjoe, as they threatened to re-produce their stunning win in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup.
It was too good to last but, even after the visitors struck back with four tries in a devastating 18-minute spell, McNamara's men stayed in the contest to play a full part in a rousing start to the tournament.
England should still reach the quarter-finals but the defeat means that holders New Zealand will almost certainly stand in their way of earning a re-match with Australia in the November 30 final at Old Trafford.
It was a performance to instil belief that England could yet overcome the Kangaroos in the competition but Tomkins, who was a double winner with Wigan this year, was not consoled by the manner of defeat.
"It's disappointing," he said. "We've a lot to improve on
that's the main thing to come out of it.
"You can't be happy with a loss, can you? You've got to be disappointed with a loss.
"We probably gave them a bit too much ball. They're a quality side, probably the best in the world, and they're going to punish you."
Tomkins was at the heart of a promising display and, had he scored on the stroke of half-time, England might have been celebrating a famous victory.
But he was brought back for a forward pass and the lethal Kangaroos scored straight from the resulting scrum through Tomkins' opposite number Billy Slater to pull out to an 18-10 interval lead.
They had already edged in front thanks to quickfire tries from man of the match Johnathan Thurston and Greg Bird and, when winger Brett Morris touched down for his 13th try in as many Tests three minutes into the second half to make it 22-10, the match appeared to be heading for the widely-anticipated rout.
But England demonstrated their resolve by adding further tries through giant prop George Burgess and winger Josh Charnley to give the final scoreline a huge dose of respectability.
Burgess had produced the most eye-catching performance on his debut alongside brothers Sam and Tom while Huddersfield second rower Brett Ferres also justified his surprise call-up to considerably ease the pressure on McNamara, who had looked like a man feeling the strain 24 hours earlier when he called a halt to questions on the absence of Gareth Hock and James Graham.
Those questions remain largely unanswered, although Leeds winger Hall briefly spoke on the subject after Saturday's game.
"Obviously it's disheartening for Gaz," Hall said. "He's let himself down really and let us down but we've got to get on with that. Brett's a great player. He's come in and got a starting spot."
Ferres, who was a late replacement for Hock, looks certain to keep his place for England's next group match against Ireland on his home ground at Huddersfield next Saturday and it will be interesting to see if the coach recalls Graham after what would amount to a one-match ban.
The former St Helens prop is thought to have been among the players revealed by the disgraced Hock to have joined him breaking an alcohol ban in the wake of the defeat by Italy.
Graham would be an automatic replacement for Sam Burgess if the South Sydney front rower is ruled out of the Ireland game through suspension.
The South Sydney front rower was put on report by New Zealand referee Henry Perenara for a high tackle on Australia second rower Sam Thaiday 62 minutes into Saturday's match and the incident will be reviewed by a specially-convened panel on Monday.
If Burgess is charged, it is likely he would face a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.