Test: ENGLAND 32 FRANCE 18 at Parc des Sports, Avignon

By STEVE MASCORD

HE was saved from having to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ for the first time in front of 16,000 people but Bronco Jack Reed managed a sensational try in front of his proud parents when he made his debut for England yesterday.

Rookie Brisbane centre Reed stunned Queensland’s Origin setup when he opted to represent a country he left at the age of two and yesterday his decision bore fruit when he donned St George’s Cross for the first time in a 32-18 win over France at Avignon’s Parc des Sports with parents Parents Kath and Joe watching in the stands.

Critics didn’t have the chance to find out if Reed and fellow controversial imports Chris Heighington and Rangi Chase knew the anthem because someone lost the tape and it wasn’t played before kick-off.

“I wouldn’t have a clue what happened – we all linked arms and then there were all these French people talking and I don’t know what they were saying,” Reed told the Sunday Mail. “Apparently no tape. I learnt it and the boys have been giving me a bit of Mick about it. Hopefully I get to scream it in front of a home crowd.

“It doesn’t matter than I live in Australia. When I put on the jersey I’m out there representing my country and I’m over the moon with that.”

The ball went far more often to the other English centre, Kirk Yeaman, but when the 23-year-old got his chance, he took it. Melbourne’s Gareth Widdop collected the ball five metres from his own line and weaved his way upfield before the elusive Reed burned off two defenders and swan-dived between the posts.

“We’ve got as lot to work on but I’m happy with my debut, getting out there, getting across for one, a good day,” said Reed, whose sister Emily will also be in the UK for the duration of the Four Nations.

Chase, the most contentious of the three overseas players in coach Steve McNamara’s squad because he qualifies only on residential grounds, was named man of the match while Wests Tigers’ Heighington played strongly and Widdop was used as a replacement for boom fullback Sam Tomkins rather than in the halves.

Chase said: “It was good to get man of the match but I don’t think I deserved it. We shot ourselves in the foot, could have got some more points but killed ourselves. It was stressful because …. we didn’t get anywhere near what we are capable of. We just blew it every time we got momentum.”

Wests Tigers’ Heighington said he was confident of the side improving – and of doing well when he has to perform God Save The Queen next weekend. “I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “I was going to sing it loud and proud.

“It was a great experience. We didn’t play the best but we got the cobwebs out and it’s great to be a part of the team. The boys have welcomed me.”

Australian referee Matt Cecchin didn’t seem to impress McNamara. “We were a little bit frustrated,” he said. “The Super League competition’s a lot quicker than that game was tonight and I think when we started to go on the front foot, we looked a bit potent.”

The French salvaged some pride in front of a keen 16,866 crowd with consecutive tries to finish the game. France coach Bobbie Goulding was not convinced the English had what was necessary to beat Tim Sheens’ Australians.

ENGLAND 32 (Tom Briscoe 2, Ryan Hall, Kirk Yeaman, James Roby, Jack Reed tries; Kevin Sinfield 4 goals) beat FRANCE 18 (Olivier Elima 2, Vincent Duport tries; Thomas Bosc 3 goals) at Parc des Sports, Avignon. Crowd: 16,866. Referee: Matt Cecchin (Australia).

Filed for: SUNDAY MAIL