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Italy beat England 15-14 in rugby league

England suffered a shock 15-14 loss to minnows Italy in a Rugby League World Cup warm-up match on Saturday -- just a week before the tournament starts.
Italy beat England 15-14 in rugby league
by AAP

LONDON, Oct 19 AFP - England suffered a shock 15-14 loss to minnows Italy in a Rugby League World Cup warm-up match on Saturday -- just a week before the tournament starts.

Italy, who've yet to play in a World Cup, led 10-4 before two tries from Sam Tomkins gave England, the main tournament hosts, a 14-12 half-time lead in Salford, near Manchester.

But a drop-goal from winger Josh Mantellato two minutes from time condemned England to a one-point defeat and left their supporters fearing the worst ahead of next weekend's tournament opener against Australia in Cardiff.

For all they are one of the sport's traditional powers England, or Great Britain as they then were, have not won the World Cup since 1972 with Australia triumphing in the six subsequent editions before the Kangaroos were beaten in the most recent final, by New Zealand in 2008.

A strong England showing is widely considered to be important if the tournament is not going to be a drawn out series of matches leading to an inevitable Australia-New Zealand final.

But in a match watched by Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens, England came off second best albeit they and Italy used 44 players between them.

A first-half rainstorm, bolstered by thunder and lightning, was a sign of the dismal day to come for England as several defensive errors allowed an Italy side, featuring NRL Grand Final winners in Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello and Aidan Guerra, to build an eight-point lead.

England coach Steve McNamara would have been dismayed by the way defenders fell off the tackle to let St Helens prop Anthony Laffranchi a soft early try and the untroubled way hooker Dean Parata burrowed over for Italy's second.

Mantellato converted both scores before England recovered through a try from centre Carl Ablett in the 19th minute.

Tomkins then took James Roy's fine pass to score his first try before grabbing Gareth Widdop's high kick for his second touchdown.

Kevin Sinfield was off target with his first conversion attempt and hit the post with his second before replacement Widdop was on target when he added the extras following Tomkins's second score to put England in front shortly before half time.

However, England missed chances to press home their advantage and McNamara, presumably conscious of more important matches to come, took Tomkins off 16 minutes from time.

With 11 minutes left, Italy drew level when substitute Ray Nasso kicked a penalty from in front of the posts.

England should have won the match when Widdop broke clear with five minutes remaining but failed to find Rob Burrow, who was up in support.

And when Josh Charnley knocked on inside his own 20-metre area, Mantellato responded by landing a 30-metre drop-goal that gave an Italy side coached by Salford-born Carlo Napolitano a famous victory.

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