England take charge of Euro final

England retained their hold on the European Nations Cup with a hard-fought 36-12 win over Ireland in an entertaining final at Warrington's Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Huge underdogs going into the match, Daryl Powell's Wolfhounds put in a gallant display against an English side packed with Super League experience, much of it straining to impress watching Great Britain coach Brian Noble.

Four first-half tries - including two from Huddersfield man of the match Paul Reilly - set Karl Harrison's men on their way and despite plenty of tenacious Irish defence and a couple of top-notch tries, the result was never really in doubt.

An Irish team mainly built from National League and domestic RLI players, though, won many friends with a committed display that provided the domestic game in Ireland with a major boost.

The only black mark on a tremendous afternoon for international rugby league were injuries to England's St Helens star Jon Wilkin (broken hand) and Ireland centre Stuart Littler (damaged shoulder). Reilly's first came after nine minutes, when he had the simplest of jobs in touching down from a Luke Robinson short pass.

Rob Burrow added the first of six goals and the Leeds Rhinos dynamo almost stretched the lead four minutes later but he knocked on with the line begging.

Reilly's second came courtesy of a great Richard Whiting off-load, again converted by Burrow who added England's third try and another goal after a surging Robinson break.

And on the stroke of 25 minutes, Mark Calderwood took a Ben Westwood pass to scorch over on the right wing, Burrow converting to make it 24-0.

The Irish played doggedly though, and that was the way it stayed until half-time.

If England's first half had been largely error free the same could not be said for the second. Lee Greenwood had a glorious chance to stretch the English lead a minute after the restart but he couldn't take the scoring pass.

After Dublin-born Sheffield Eagles winger Carl De Chenu did well to rob Calderwood of the ball and set up Ireland's best attacking position of the game, the Wolfhounds began to grow in confidence.

And when veteran prop Barrie McDermott crashed over soon after, his try converted by Pat Weisner, Ireland had just rewards for their efforts.

No sooner had the strains of "The Irish Rover" died away than De Chenu had another great chance. He couldn't pick up the loose bouncing ball cleanly though and the opportunity was gone.

As English mistakes began to multiply, a pumped up Ireland piled on the pressure with a desperate Whiting having to kick dead before a pass out wide just escaped the clutches of Kilkenny Wildcats Ian Dowling.

England skipper Rob Parker calmed his country's nerves by crashing over for a 65th-minute try, Burrow converting, and after putting in such a massive defensive effort the Irish might have been expected to crumble.

But when David Bates went over from a suspiciously forward-looking Weisner pass to make it 30-12, with Weisner adding the extras, it was no less than the Wolfhounds deserved.

It could have been even closer had Phil Cantillon wriggled over after Irish man of the match Martin McLoughlin was just hauled down short.

But the last laugh went to England and when impressive Hull substitute Nick Scruton slid over to deny Ireland an unlikely second half "victory" in the final minute, the 2004 European Nations Cup was won.

England Tries: Reilly (9, 18), Burrow (21), Calderwood (25), Parker (65), Scruton (79) Goals: Burrow 6

Ireland Tries: McDermott (48), Bates (67) Goals: Weisner 2

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