England outclass Fiji
November 10, 2012
Charlie Sharples grabbed two tries as England beat Fiji
© PA Photos
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Tom Hamilton
England scored seven tries as they opened their autumn international campaign with a 54-12 win over Fiji at Twickenham.
England had talked about imposing themselves on Fiji from the outset and they crushed the islanders in the first scrum but they spent most of the opening 20 minutes in defence. Lancaster's men were falling foul of referee Glen Jackson, the former Saracens fly-half who was taking charge of his first Test match.
The England pack conceded a free-kick at the second scrum before being penalised for off-side. Fly-half Metuisela Talebula was horribly short with the shot at goal and England looked to counter-attack and Manu Tuilagi threw a loose pass but Fiji could not profit. England ventured into Fiji territory just twice in some scrappy opening exchanges, both from Toby Flood kicks, as the islanders dominated possession. And things got worse for England when scrum-half Danny Care was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
Fiji heaped the pressure on with barnstorming runs from Api Naikatini and another from Qera, forcing some last-ditch defence from the men in white. Thomas Waldrom then lost control at the base of England's five-metre scrum, Fiji won the put in and attacked again through Qera. The Gloucester loose-forward knocked on as he drove for the line through two defenders and yet England still could not clear their lines.
Talebula was short with a second shot at goal, and England finally enjoyed some possession in the Fiji half with a powerful carry from Manu Tuilagi. Youngs, Waldrom and Sharples carried England forward and when Fiji were penalised, Robshaw pointed to the posts and Flood kicked the points.
In the end, England negotiated Care's absence well and almost immediately on his return they began to click through gears and Sharples scored his first Test try. Tuilagi's burst and a quick offload from Goode created the opportunity and Sharples cut in off the right wing. He still had a lot to do but brushed off three Fijian defenders to touch down. Flood converted and then added a second penalty, taking his Test points tally past the 250 mark, as England began to build continuity and make yards with every ball carry.
Goode was proving highly effective as England's second play-maker and Care's delivery carried a real zip and Fiji's only answer was to spoil. A storming run from Robshaw carried England back into the Fiji 22 and they spread the ball well but the chance was butchered when Marler's final pass for Brad Barritt went horribly forwards.
Tom Johnson and then Robshaw drove for the line. The England captain was held up but this time the red rose pack remained disciplined and twice shoved Fiji backwards to earn a penalty try.
Sharples was centimetres away from scoring a brilliant second try after a weaving run from Goode and a trademark sniping break from Care. Sharples chipped ahead, the ball skipped down the touchline, touched the flag and then just brushed the whitewash in-goal before he could dive on it. Care looked to go himself and was scragged just short of the line but Fiji conceded yet another penalty. England took a quick tap just five yards out and Monye breezed over down the blindside to mark his England return with a try.
Flood extended England's lead with a penalty soon after the restart and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola was sent on for his debut and England built from the attacking platform, working an overlap down the left and Robshaw sent Johnson over for his first Test try.
England switched off and allowed Fiji to score an eye-catching consolation, with Malaki Ravulo streaking away from Tuilagi before Matawalu kicked ahead to score.
Flood then exploited the space out left, launching a long pass for Sharples, who stepped inside and scored his second try of the match.
England began to ring the changes and Ben Youngs came on to join his elder brother Tom, who produced an impressive Test debut before making way for David Paice.
Ben Youngs and Mike Brown both dropped the ball over the line as England looked to turn the screw against a tiring Fiji team.
Qera somehow managed to haul down a barnstorming run from Waldrom but Fiji were stretched again as quick hands from Barritt allowed Tuilagi to dive over in the corner. The Leicester centre then brushed aside a weak tackle to touch down again. Fiji had the final word though, with Seko Kalou crashing over for their second try.
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