England 54 Fiji 12: Lancaster's young side in control but rue missed chances
00:04 GMT, 11 November 2012
England may have run up a half-century of points with seven tries and a record winning margin against Fiji, but this was no brave new dawn for Stuart Lancaster's side.
The reality is that while England had valid reasons for producing a rusty performance – injuries ruling out half-a-dozen first-choice players – this was as poor a Fiji team as they have fielded in five meetings with their hosts.
Two-try hero: Manu Tuilagi went over twice at Twickenham
England: Goode; Sharples, Tuilagi, Barritt, Monye; Flood, Care; Marler, Youngs, Cole, Parling, Palmer, Johnson, Robshaw, Waldron.
Replacements: Paice (65 for T Youngs), Wilson (58 for Cole), Vunipola (46 for Marler), Launchbury (50 for Palmer), Tom Wood (59 for Johnson), B Youngs (58 for Care), Farrell (59 for Flood), Brown (59 for Monye)
Try: Sharples 2, Monye, Johnson, Tuilagi 2. Cons: Flood 4, Farrell. Pens: Flood 3.
Sin bin: Care (10).
Fiji: Koniferedi; Wara, Goneva, Naqelevuki, Votu; Talebula, Matawalu; Makutu, Veikoso, Manu, Nakawara, Ratuniyarawa, Naikatani, Ravulo, Qera.
Replacements: Naureure (47 for Veikoso), Samoca (not used), Saulo (67 for Manu), Kalou (73 for Ratuniyarawa), Ratuva (52 for Naikatini), Bola (not used), Matavesi (40 for Koniferedi), Fatiaki (67 for Wara).
Try: Matawalu, Kalou Con: Matavesi.
Sin bin: Manu (29).
Referee: G Jackson (New Zealand).
That may not be surprising, given
Fiji's absentees after sudden and convenient declarations of allegiance
to France, as well as injuries and visa problems, all of which resulted
in a team ranked 14th in the world having just one full training session
before this encounter at Twickenham.
But despite being ranked 10 places above them, England botched at least seven try-scoring opportunities.
Three were disallowed rightly by the
busy Television Match Official, Gareth Simmonds, two more were held up
and two thrown away by loose final passes.
Throw in the fact that it took 20
minutes before England took the lead – a Toby Flood penalty – in a first
quarter dominated by the South Sea islanders, who also missed two
penalties and almost scored two tries, and Lancaster and his coaching
team will have much to analyse in the cold light of day.
Does this all seem a little churlish
Fiji are an unknown quantity to an England team who last played them in
1999, while England, with three Test debutants in the match-day 23,
needed a good run-out before they take on the big three of Australia,
South Africa and New Zealand.
Make mine a double: Charlie Sharples scored two tries also
Versatlie: Man-of-the-match Alex Goode operated as a makeshift scrum-half with Danny Care sin-binned
But the Wallabies next Saturday, let
alone the Springboks and All Blacks, will not give England anything
like the freedom afforded them by a Fiji team who ran out of steam well
before the final whistle.
England will need to convert their
chances if they are to come close to fulfilling Lancaster's wish of four
straight autumn wins.
So what are the positives
All 23 of the squad played at least a part, including reserve prop Mako Vunipola and reserve lock Joe Launchbury.
Motoring nicely: Ugo Monye's try pushed the score onto 25-0
New hooker Tom Youngs made a more
than decent first start, carrying the ball with zest and producing a
flawless display at the lineout.
Flood, the most experienced player
in this callow England side with 51 caps to his name, kicked seven from
eight as he helped himself to 17 points; Charlie Sharples was within an
inch of scoring a hat-trick of tries, which will make the team selection
for Australia next week interesting with the suspended Chris Ashton
available; and Alex Goode followed up his confident first start as
full-back in Port Elizabeth five months ago with a man-of-the-match
Up and running: Charlie Sharples scored the opening try
High riser: Geoff Parling holds on as England win a lineout
The injured Ben Foden may have to start thinking about playing on the wing for England when he returns for the Six Nations.
When Flood kicked the first points
of the game, the decision to go for goal was received with the odd boo
by an already restless crowd.
/11/10/article-2230983-15F42C57000005DC-374_634x412.jpg” width=”634″ height=”412″ alt=”Tough to stop: Thomas Waldrom is tackled by Vereniki Goneva” class=”blkBorder” />
Tough to stop: Thomas Waldrom is tackled by Vereniki Goneva
Flood converted, then added a penalty, and after having barely been in the game for 26 minutes, England were 13 points up.
It should have been 20 seven minutes from the break, but Joe Marler's final pass to Brad Barritt missed his man.
Three minutes later, the prop made
some amends by playing his part in forcing referee Glen Jackson, the
former Saracens stand-off making his Test debut in charge, to award
England a penalty try after the increasingly dominant English pack
forced their counterparts to repeatedly collapse under their own posts.
When Ugo Monye then burst over
unopposed in the corner after Goode's quick tap in the dying seconds, a
half-time lead of 25-0 appeared about par, and with Flood adding a
penalty, Tom Johnson scoring his first Test try in his first home start
in the corner after receiving from the unselfish Chris Robshaw and Flood
converting inside 50 minutes, a cricket score was on the cards.
This did not quite materialise as England, in fairness, rang the changes.
Fiji scrum-half Nikola Matawalu
grabbed a try back, and although Sharples scored his second from a long,
floated pass from Flood and Manu Tuilagi bulldozed his way to two late
tries, it was Fiji who had the last word when replacement lock Seko
Kalou burrowed his way under the English posts.