QBE International: England crush Fiji in autumn series opener
Last Updated: November 11, 2012 8:12am
Charlie Sharples: scored England's opening try
England ran in seven tries as they crushed Fiji 54-12 in an impressive start to their autumn Test series at Twickenham.
There were signs of rustiness in the side's handling and execution, but overall this was a good stepping stone towards the tests to come against the three southern hemisphere giants on successive Saturdays.
Fiji played with plenty of commitment and pride but never looked likely to threaten an upset and relied on their pace for the occasional burst out of defence when England turned over possession.
The Islanders kept their try-line intact until the 21st minute, when Charlie Sharples took advantage of a shredded defensive line to weave his way through three tackles and dive in for a sharp finish.
The conversion from Toby Flood plus two penalties put England clear and they were able to build on that in the closing minutes of the half, after Fiji finally paid for a succession of penalties when skipper Deacon Manu was sin-binned.
Chris Robshaw was held up over the line but the resultant Fiji scrum crumbled and a penalty try was inevitable.
A darting break up the centre from Danny Care almost set up Sharples for his second try only for the TMO to rule a knock-on, but on the stroke of half-time England did get over again when Alex Goode took a quick tap penalty and with the Fiji defence almost out on their feet, Ugo Monye went over unopposed for the simplest of tries and a 25-0 half-time lead.
Flood knocked over a penalty two minutes after the break before Dan Cole was held up over the line when he should have shipped the ball out wide for a certain score.
But after a move which switched play from one flank to the other and left the Fiji defence in disarray, Tom Johnson got over in the corner for his first England try.
But Fiji roared back with a breakaway try, as scrum-half Nikola Matawalu launched a solo attack from inside his own 22 and two hack-ons later he was touching down.
Fiji were quickly stretched too far out wide once more when Flood's accurate pass put Sharples in for his second try and that score brought a raft of changes from the England bench.
Moments after Tom Youngs failed to finish in one corner, his club teammate Manu Tuilagi showed him how it should be done by the opposite flag, then barged his way over for his second - a typically powerful centre's try.
But England failed to deal with the re-start and were equally sloppy in defence of their line, allowing Sekonaia Kalou to burrow over from close range and give the delighted Fijians the final say.
Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff will no doubt have plenty to say about that in the analysis of this game, but overall they will be happy with a job well done.
England looked to have more attacking edge than they have in recent internationals, the tendency for individual lunges for the line when the ball should be shipped out wide notwithstanding.
Australia will present a much tougher challenge, but on this evidence England will expect to improve and beat the Wallabies on home turf.