Huddersfield Giants star Jermaine McGillvary got top billing in England’s World Cup opener.
The 29-year-old wingman scored England’s only points with an early try against Ausralia, who won 18-4 at the AAMI Park in Melbourne.
But McGillvary and fellow wing Ryan Hall of Leeds carried the ball strongly throughout and also defended well.
Both received a top England mark of eight out of 10 from Press Association rugby league writer Ian Laybourn, the former Examiner sportswriter.
Laybourn said: “Winger Jermaine McGillvary is small in stature but big in heart, which he demonstrated throughout the first half in particular.
“He scored the first try of the match – his fifth in six matches – but also caught the eye with some terrific defence and some determined relieving runs.”
And McGillvary was picked out for praise in all quarters.
Australia full-back Slater hailed England’s back three of Jonny Lomax, Hall and McGillvary.
“We were prepared for a tough battle and we got that, we were a bit scratchy in attack, there is improvement to make but it was a good start,” said the 34-year-old.
“England’s strengths are their back three, their wingers are hard to handle, they shift the ball and make you defend.
“They’re a good side and they’ll go well in this competition.”
England suffered a big blow to their World Cup hopes with leading forward Sam Burgess ruled out for three to four weeks with suspected medial ligament damage.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs player went off late in the first half.
If Burgess is sidelined for three weeks he would not return until just before the quarter-finals start on November 18 and would miss England’s remaining group matches against Lebanon (November 4) and France (November 12).
Captain Sean O’Loughlin feels England are still rusty, even though they pushed the holders all the way before conceding eight points in the last five minutes.
McGillvary put England before scores from Matt Gillett, Slater and Josh Dugan - all converted by Cameron Smith - gave Australia victory.
“We knew what a good side we were going to come up against,” said O’Loughlin.
“Both sides are a little bit rusty still and there were quite a few errors.
“We’re not pleased with the loss, but we can take a lot from it.
“The back three were strong with their kicks and they carried the ball well for us. Everyone had a really big game.”
From Australia’s point of view, on the link-up play between Smith, Cooper Cronk and himself, Slater added: “We’ve played together for 17 years, we have those plays up our sleeve.
“We just need to hold the ball, build pressure and get them tired for those to come off.”
Australia: Billy Slater 6 (out of 10), Dane Gagai 7. Will Chambers 5, Josh Dugan 7, Valentine Holmes 6, Michael Morgan 5, Cooper Cronk 7, Aaron Woods 7, Cameron Smith 8, David Klemmer 8, Boyd Cordner 6, Matt Gillett 7, Jake Trbojevic 7. Interchange: Wade Graham 5, Jordan McLean 5, Josh McGuire 6, Tyson Frizell 6.
England: Jonny Lomax 6, Jermaine McGillvary 8, Kallum Watkins 7, John Bateman 7, Ryan Hall 8, Gareth Widdop 7, Luke Gale 6, Chris Hill 6, Josh Hodgson 7, James Graham 7, Sam Burgess 6, Elliott Whitehead 6, Sean O’Loughlin 7. Interchange: Ben Currie 5, Chris Heighington 5, Tom Burgess 6, James Roby 7.