England were headed towards an embarrassing first-up loss to the Kumuls when they trailed 16-12 at half-time but scored four tries to one in the final 40 minutes to secure the victory. The English side eventually getting home 32-22.
World Cup contenders England were expected to make easy work of the underdog Kumuls, but they were made to fight all the way before securing the win. Smith scored in the 29th minute and again just 11 minutes after half-time as England drew level at 16-all.
The Leeds flyer completed his hat-trick on debut in the 73rd minute as the Lions eventually cruised home to take the Pool A encounter.
Fellow winger Ade Gardner also got among the tries to score twice and centre Martin Gleeson was England’s other tryscorer in the six tries to four win.
Despite the loss PNG will be buoyed by their opening effort when they really threatened one of the top-rated teams in the tournament.
Rod Griffin levelled scores 6-6 in the 20th minute before late first half tries to Jason Chan and George Keppa, in the final seconds of the half, gave the Kumuls an unlikely four-point lead at the break.
But the Kumuls were unable to keep up the intensity in the second half, and Penrith hooker Paul Aiton ended the English domination by scoring a consolation try in the 75th minute.
England’s win means they take the early lead in the pool ahead of today’s heavyweight clash between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Lions will need a huge improvement to threaten Australia in their next game at Melbourne’s Telstra Dome next Sunday. The Kumuls head to the Gold Coast to face the Kiwis at Skilled Stadium on Saturday.
ENGLAND 32 (L Smith 3 A Gardner 2 M Gleeson tries K Sinfield 4 goals) bt PAPUA NEW GUINEA 22 (P Aiton J Chan R Griffin G Keppa tries J Wilshere 3 goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: S Hayne. Crowd: 10,780.