Tuesday 24 October 2017

England dust off cobwebs

England 54
Fiji 12

Paul Rees at Twickenham

Seven tries, five scored by a trio of their three-quarters -- and it would have been all four but for a shocking pass by a prop -- reflected England's sharpened attacking instinct.

If defences in the next three weeks will not be as gullible as Fiji's, England's movement off the ball and their use of Alex Goode as a roving runner -- together with a tactical appreciation that kept the islanders muted -- showed how their game has evolved in the past year.

Fiji dominated the first 10 minutes, enjoying 80 per cent of the possession and exposing England's defence around the fringes. The visitors were on top when Danny Care was sent to the sin-bin after nine minutes for a spear tackle on Leone Nakarawa on the advice of the touch judge Craig Joubert.

Fiji used their man advantage well, but the closer they came to the try line, the less likely they looked to score. It took England 18 minutes to launch their first threatening attack.

With Care still in the cooler, they opted for three points through Toby Flood's boot. When Fiji strayed offside after the restart, Flood kicked to touch, Tom Johnson won the lineout and, after Thomas Waldrom and Care had taken England over the gainline, Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Goode combined to free Charlie Sharples, who took advantage of Chris Ashton's suspension to score the first of his two tries.

Sin-binned Deacon Manu's absence was exploited by England who were awarded a penalty try in his absence after a retreating Fijian scrum disintegrated. Flood had earlier kicked a penalty, but the hosts were not content with a 20-0 lead at the break and went in 25 points ahead, Ugo Monye scoring on his return.

Fiji were blowing and took their time before coming out for the second period. They knew what was coming: more defending and retreating 10 metres for penalties. Fiji did score a breakaway try through Matawalu on 54 minutes, but only after flanker Johnson had claimed England's fourth.

Fiji had the last word when the replacement back-rower, Seko Kalou, finished off Qera's break from a tap penalty. Fiji lacked the fitness and cohesion they needed to pose any sort of challenge to England, even if the men in white had a coating of dust, but the potential is there. Next up it's Australia on Saturday, and another week in camp will see them pose a stiffer test than yesterday.

Scorers -- England: C Sharples, M Tuilagi 2 tries each, penalty try, U Monye, T Johnson; T Flood 3 pens, 4 cons, Farrell con. Fiji: N Matawalu, S Kalou try each, J Matavesi con

England: A Goode; C Sharples, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, U Monye (Brown 59); T Flood (Youngs 59), D Care (Farrell 59); J Marler (Vunipola 46), T Youngs (Paice 65), D Cole (Wilson 63), T Palmer (Launchbury 50), G Parling, T Johnson (Wood 59), C Robshaw, T Waldrom

Fiji: S Koniferedi; S Wara (Fatiaki 67), V Goneva, S Naqelevuki, W Votu (Bola 72); M Talebula, N Matawalu; A Qera, M Ravulo (Somoca 30), A Naikatini (Ratuva 52), A Ratuniyarawa (Kalou 72), L Nakarawa, D Manu (Manasa 67), V Veikoso (Naureure 47), P Makutu

Referee: G Jackson (New Zealand)

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