England claimed an important 35-11 bonus-point win against Fiji in the opening match of the 2015 World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI at Twickenham.
The scoreline flatters the hosts. England were outplayed for large parts of the game, particularly at the collisions and breakdowns. Ultimately, it was their superior fitness and resolve that allowed them to extend their lead and then claim the crucial bonus point at the death.
England were aided by some horrendous goal-kicking and decision making by the Fijians. Between flyhalf Ben Volavola and Nemani Nadolo, Fiji missed four attempts on goal. As many as 14 points went begging.
The crowd at Twickenham certainly embraced the occasion. The opening ceremony was well received by the 80,000 fans packed into Twickenham. The hordes of English fans found their voices for impromptu renditions of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, ‘Jerusalem’, and a particularly loud version of ‘God Save the Queen’.
The locals seemed desperate for this World Cup to begin, and for their team to start the campaign with a resounding victory. But on a wet night at Twickenham, England battled to control the ball. They impressed at the scrums, but struggled to generate sufficient go-forward from second and third phase.
And yet they enjoyed many opportunities. Fiji scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu was yellow carded for a cynical infringement in the 13th minute. England were up by 15-0 after 22 minutes, and looked to be on course for a comfortable win.
Fiji fought back in the latter stages of the first half. While England held an 18-8 lead at the break, the momentum was with the Pacific Islanders.
Fiji continued to win penalties at the breakdown in the second stanza. England coach Stuart Lancaster went to his bench, and the introduction of Joe Launchbury and Billy Vunipola boosted the hosts’ gainline effort. However, neither man could stop the Fijian counter-ruck effort.
Unfortunately, Fiji proceeded to squander this advantage. One penalty kick failed to find touch, and this provided England with a chance to counter. The hosts eventually won a penalty in front of the posts, and reserve flyhalf Owen Farrell kicked England into a 21-11 lead. This was the beginning of the end for Fiji.
Mike Brown showed how dangerous he can be from broken field in the dying minutes. The fullback scored his second try in the 72nd minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Deep into injury time, Vunipola charged at the line, and then reached to place the ball on the whitewash. TMO Shaun Veldsman ruled the try was scored, a decision that ensured England claimed the sought-after bonus point.
The performance may not have been convincing, but England did the job in claiming the five log points.
England – Tries: Penalty try, Mike Brown (2), Billy Vunipola. Conversions: George Ford, Owen Farrell (2). Penalties: Ford (2), Farrell.
Fiji – Try: Nemani Nadolo. Penalties: Nadolo, Ben Volavola.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sam Burgess.
Fiji – 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Sakiusa Masi Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Subs: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Isei Colati, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Joshua Matavesi, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images