England Youth went down 8-20 to France Under-16 at The Big Fellas Stadium in Featherstone to draw the two-match junior international series 1-1.
Despite a spirited second half performance, England could not break down a stubborn French defence enough times to overturn a sizeable half-time deficit.
For the second time in the series it was a question of which team would adapt better to the conditions – after the cold and unrelenting rain at Wakefield in Good Friday’s first match, Featherstone had clear blue skies, temperatures into the high teens and the famous Post Office Road slope to offer.
Playing uphill in the first period, England took 20 minutes to register any sort of control, struggling against the gradient and France’s aggressive approach as the visitors looked to take full advantage.
After an almighty scramble on the England line, during which the ball rebounded off a post, Theo Guinguet managed to shunt his way over the England line for the first try after just a minute.
Lucas Albert, fresh from converting the game’s first try, found a gap nine minutes later to go over himself, before adding a second goal. Still finding tough the intensity of France’s play, England knocked-on in front of their own line, eventually leaving enough room for Luc Franco to sprint through.
A late penalty by Albert just before half-time left England with an 18-0 deficit to overturn in the second period. Wakefield Trinity Wildcats winger Will Dagger put England’s recovery in progress by going over twice in the corner – the second following an excellent break by Elliott Windley and expert pass by the ever-impressive Cameron Smith.
However it was not enough, as after a late penalty, France’s excellent tackling and tough defending left England 12 points short.
England coach Shane Eccles said: “It was disappointing that we lost the game but for us it’s about the experience for the players – we want to see them deal with a physical and mental challenge.
“We spoke about the French coming back stronger and we got ourselves into a battle rather than focusing on what we were trying to do in the game, and that’s a big learning curve for the players.”
England Youth (professional and community club shown in brackets):
James Worthington (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Judes)
William Dagger (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Castleford Panthers)
Jacob Wardle (Huddersfield Giants, Illingworth)
Harry Newman (Leeds Rhinos, Newsome Panthers)
Kevin Brown (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)
Declan O’Donnell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Danny Walker (Widnes Vikings, Crosfields)
Liam Walsh (Widnes Vikings, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Jacques O’Neill (Castleford Tigers, Askam)
Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
Dyson Nicholson (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
Oliver Partington (Wigan Warriors, Orrell St James)
Cameron Smith (Leeds Rhinos, Lock Lane)
Elliot Windley (Hull KR, West Hull)
Jon-Luke Kirby (Huddrsfield Giants, Eastmoor Dragons)
Caine Barnes (Wigan Warriors, Seaton Rangers)
Samuel Kibula (Wigan Warriors, Leigh Miners Rangers)
Luc Franco (StEsteve XIII Catalan (Dragons U19))
Georgy Gambaro (MJCarcasonne XIII)
Theo Guinguet (Tonneins XIII)
William Planela (St Esteve)
Nicolas Company (SOA)
Lucas Albert (StEsteve XIII Catalan (Dragons U19))
Thibault Franck (XIII Catalan)
Theo Lardot (Marseille 13)
Clement Meunier (XIII Catalan)
Maxime Garcia (StEsteve XIII Catalan (Dragons U19))
Leo Mathieu (Albi)
Cameron Chamorin (St Esteve)
Ayoub Mezianni (SOA)
Hugo Priels (XIII Catalan)
Justin Sangare (TO XIII)
Louis Castres (FCL XIII)
Tom Bonillo (XIII Catalan)
England Youth 8 (T: Dagger 2), France U-16s 20 (T: Guinguet, Albert, Franco; G: Albert 4)