England got their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign off to the best start possible with a bonus point win over Fiji in their opening match.
England Efficient in Bonus Point Win
England decked out in their change colour red strip, proving that being the host nation does not automatically make you the home team, capitalised on early Fijian mistakes. Fly half Ben Volavola knocked on early and England were awarded a penalty from the resultant scrum. George Ford opened the World Cup scoring slotting the penalty to put England 3-0 up.
Fiji were given a quick opportunity to level the scores but Volavola, on what was a poor night’s goal kicking for Fiji, hit the post. Fiji then were put into further trouble as Nikola Matawalu collapsed a driving England maul to concede a penalty try and earn himself ten minutes in the sin bin. England pulled further ahead making use of the extra man as full back Mike Brown crossed the whitewash to make it 15-0 to England.
The return to the field of Matawalu gave Fiji some more impetus, and an opportunistic break down the blind side from a scrum almost resulted in a Fijian try. However the Television Match Official spotted that Matawalu had lost the ball in the process of grounding it. Fiji did however score immediately from the scrum. Turning over England’s put in Fiji hit a cross field kick to Nemani Nadolo, who out jumped Anthony Watson to score, in a not too dissimilar fashion to the way Watson out jumped Simon Zebo in the recent QBE international, bringing the score to 15-5. A penalty a piece from each side, converted by Ford and Nadolo, gave England an 18-8 half time lead.
The second half become a more frustrating affair for both sides as the wet ball led to multiple turnovers. England then decided to make changes, with Wigglesworth, Launchbury and the Vunipola brothers entering the fray ten minutes after the break. Farrell and Burgess then replaced Ford and Barritt shortly before Ben Volavola finally made a successful kick to make it 18-11.
Owen Farrell then showed his kicking ability to restore England’s ten point lead, before Mike Brown grabbed his second try of the match. As the clock wound down England sought their 4th try to earn themselves a bonus point with the forwards providing good penetration, but the Fijians staying strong. England finally made it over the line with time expired as Billy Vunipola powered through and reached out the ball to touch the line and give England the bonus point and a 35-11 final score.
England will be pleased with the result and the bonus point win, with Stuart Lancaster noting in his post match press conference that if you had offered the result to him before kickoff he would absolutely have taken it. However there will be areas to work on for England before they play Wales in eight days time. The scrum and break down saw too many turnovers and England will look to have that corrected by the time they face Warren Gatland’s side.
There were a number of positives from the game that England will look to take into the rest of their pool matches. Mike Brown was excellent with his two tries just the icing on an all round good performance. The forwards carried the ball well often making good yards, and the replacements showed England have good depth with Lancaster admitting some of the good performances had pushed players into the battle for starting spots against Wales.
Overall it was an efficient performance from England on opening night, nothing spectacular but they got the job done. However sterner tests await Stuart Lancaster’s side and England will need to move up a gear to meet those challenges.