Manu Tuilagi scored a first-half brace of tries as England opened their World Cup campaign with a 35-3 win over Tonga in Sappora on Sunday. JOHN GOLIATH reports.
It’s a case of job done for England, with a bonus-point win in the bag, but it was far from an emphatic display after an opening weekend of action that saw both the All Blacks and Ireland make World Cup statements of intent.
It wasn’t the most convincing performance by England, who are one of the favourites to lift the cup. They weren’t very accurate, while they also lacked a bit of spark on attack.
Tonga, though, were a lot better than the scores suggests. They competed fiercely and tackled with a lot of venom. However, they ran out of steam towards the end of the match, and didn’t have the quality to put England under sustained pressure throughout the clash.
England employed the boot quite liberally in the opening minutes, especially on attack. They would eventually open the scoring in the 11th minute when Owen Farrell converted a penalty.
Tonga, though, were holding their own and didn’t look intimidated by the occasion or the opposition. The Islanders are renowned for their big hits, and the biggest one of the first half came in the 12th minute when flanker Zane Kapeli absolutely smoked big England No 8 Billy Vunipola.
Tonga were awarded with a penalty in the aftermath of that ferocious hit, with Sonatane Takulua levelling the scores.
England made plenty of linebreaks, with monster centre Manu Tuilagi looking especially threatening. Their finishing let them down in the first quarter of the first half, but they managed to get it right in the second 20 minutes before halftime.
After Sam Underhill was held up over the line in the 21st minute, Tuilagi went over for his try of the clash two minutes later. The big centre then scored his second try just after the half-hour mark after a top break by Jonny May.
Farrell kicked another penalty three minutes before the break to give England an 18-3 lead at the break.
He slotted another penalty shortly after halftime, but England struggled for rhythm on attack, while they also made a lot of errors. Tonga, though, defended for their lives and frustrated Eddie Jones’ men.
England scored their third try of the match in the 57th minute when hooker Jamie George went over following a powerful maul from five metres out.
England struggled to get their bonus-point try, going close on a few occasions. But they eventually sealed their five points in the three minutes from the end when replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie scored after a decisive break by Jonathan Joseph.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 22, 2019
England – Tries: Manu Tuilagi (2), Jamie George, Luke Cowan-Dickie. Conversions: Owen Farrell (3). Penalties: Farrell (3).
Tonga – Penalty: Sonatane Takulua.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 22, 2019
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Tonga – 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Cooper Vuna, 11 Viliami Lolohea, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Zane Kapeli, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Sosefo Sakalia, 1 Siegfried ‘Fisiihoi.
Subs: 16 Siua Maile, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Dan Faleafa, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 James Faiva, 23 Nafi Tu’itavake.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images