England: 12
Tonga: 12

  • Toby King (8),
  • MIkey Lewis (31),
  • Tom Johnstone (54),
  • Tom Johnstone (66)
  • Starford Toa (15),
  • Tyson Frizell (24),
  • Tolutau Koula (77)

  • Harry Smith (3/4)
  • Isaiya Katoa (3/3)

  • Jack Welsby,
  • Tommy Makinson,
  • Harry Newman,
  • Toby King,
  • Tom Johnstone,
  • MIkey Lewis,
  • Harry Smith,
  • Tom Burgess,
  • Daryl Clark,
  • Matty Lees,
  • John Bateman,
  • Elliot Whitehead,
  • Victor Radley.
  • Subs: Danny Walker,
  • Morgan Knowles,
  • Mike McMeeken,
  • Chris Hill
  • Will Hopoate,
  • Starford Toa,
  • Will Penisini,
  • Moses Suli,
  • Tolutau Koula,
  • Tuimoala Lolohea,
  • Isaiya Katoa,
  • Addin Fonua-Blake,
  • Siliva Havili,
  • Moeaki Fotuaika,
  • Tyson Frizell,
  • Keon Koloamatangi,
  • Felise Kaufusi.
  • Subs: Dion Teaupa,
  • Tevita Tatola,
  • Haumole Olakau’atu,
  • Hame Sele

Match report

Tom Johnstone scored twice as England produced a resolute, though far from polished, display to begin their autumn international programme with victory over Tonga in the opening match of their three-Test series.

There were only six survivors from last year’s Rugby League World Cup semi-final defeat to Samoa in Shaun Wane’s side, and his new-look lineup certainly were not at their best in St Helens. However, they showed the greater moments of quality in the key phases to claim victory in the opening Test of the series.

The scores were level with 25 minutes to go after two tries apiece but two tries from Johnstone were enough to get the hosts over the line. Tonga showed plenty to suggest they will cause problems for England in the remaining two Tests across the next fortnight and Wane, you suspect, will demand much more from his side in those games after a scratchy opening to the series.

Mikey Lewis, the Hull KR half-back making his international debut here, was the man at the centre of everything the hosts did well in the first half. It was his break from deep that laid the platform for the game’s opening try, and while he was brought down close to the line, England exploited the space created by the break to allow Toby King to score the opening try.
Tonga responded well, with tries from Starford To’a and Tyson Frizell moving Kristian Woolf’s side 10-6 ahead. But as half-time approached, Lewis once again punctured the Tongan line, this time finishing to give Harry Smith a simple conversion to make it 12-10. Tonga levelled the scores on the half-time hooter courtesy of a penalty from Isaiya Katoa.

As the hour mark approached, defences were firmly on top and it needed a moment of magic to break the stalemate. The England captain Jack Welsby produced it with a remarkable cut-out pass for Johnstone, who finished in the corner to put the hosts back ahead before the Catalans winger intercepted a Will Penisini pass to open up a two-score lead for the first time.

Tonga set up a grandstand finale with two minutes to go as Toluta’u Koula finished a wonderful move from the visitors to go over in the left corner, with Katoa’s conversion reducing the gap to just four. The tourists had one set to try and snatch victory but as they chanced their arm, they turned the ball over to ensure the hosts would survive and take the opening match of the series.