Ryan Hall stormed back to the top of the Rugby League World Cup try-scoring chart as England defeated France 34-6 on Saturday to book a semi-final clash with New Zealand.
Hall had Brett Morris and Jarryd Hayne pull level with him on six prior to kick off at the DW Stadium in Wigan after both scored four in Australia’s own quarter-final rout of the United States.
However Hall was to go back top as he dotted down twice in the first half of England’s comfortable win over France, Josh Charnley matching the 25-year-old with a double of his own.
Sean O’Loughlin and Brett Ferres scored in the second half as France stood firm for the most part while Sam Tomkins’ farewell to Wigan ended with a sin-binning in the dying moments.
England now go on to Wembley to face defending champions New Zealand, who are yet to be beaten at the World Cup so far and beat Scotland 40-4 in their quarter-final.
France lost New Zealand-born hooker Kane Bentley to an injury to his left calf inside three minutes but took a shock lead through Vincent Duport.
Sebastien Raguin set up the 25-year-old with a fine offload and Duport powered his way over with Thomas Bosc kicking from the touchline to make it 6-0.
The lead lasted just six minutes though as, from a scrum, Tomkins dazzled the France defence, skipping across three, and feeding Charnley in the corner.
Kevin Sinfield slotted a fine kick to level the score before a break from Rangi Chase in the 18th minute allowed England to build a lead that they wouldn’t surrender.
Chase set off on an initial break before another moment of brilliance from Tomkins, as he danced around again and picked out red-hot Hall for England’s second try.
Sinfield again converted excellently from the touchline before Charnley grabbed his second in a repeat of his first – Kallum Watkins the provider this time instead of Tomkins.
But Hall wasn’t to be outdone by Charnley and grabbed his second and eighth of the tournament after James Graham and James Roby combined to launch England swiftly up the field.
Sinfield converted having missed after Charnley’s try and did the honours again as it took England seven minutes of the second half to score their fifth of the match.
Chase kicked into the left corner on the last tackle, Hall did superbly to flick backwards with Leroy Cudjoe sweeping up and allowing O’Loughlin to cross to make it 26-6.
However, for all their free-flowing attacks in the first half, England were forced to defend for much of the second as France probed to add to their solitary try.
Damien Cardace almost lit up the final 10 minutes after capitalising on poor handling from Charnley however England hauled him in to keep France at bay.
However there was a regrettable moment as Tomkins, saying his farewell to Wigan as he joins New Zealand Warriors after the World Cup, was sent to the bin for a professional foul in the aftermath.
Ferres had the final say of the match, however, with Sinfield slotting a kick from right in front of the posts, his fifth from six, as it ended 34-6 to England.