England issue statement with win over Fiji

Last updated 07:23 11/11/2012
Manu Tuilagi
Getty Images
ROMP: Manu Tuilagi of England runs in his side's seventh try over Fiji.

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England recovered from a slow start to score seven tries in a 54-12 demolition of Fiji, issuing a statement of intent ahead of upcoming tests against the southern hemisphere powers.

Charlie Sharples and Manu Tuilagi each scored a brace of tries at Twickenham, Ugo Monye and Tom Johnson also went over while England was awarded a penalty try in a one-sided final hour. Toby Flood kicked 17 points, missing only one of seven shots at goal.

Second-half tries by Nikola Matawalu and Seko Kalou were just reward for the efforts of Fiji, which was overrun after making a ferocious start in front of 82,000 fans.

After losing a three-match summer test series 2-0 in South Africa, the confidence of an inexperienced England side will be boosted before successive matches against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

They will provide much tougher tests for Stuart Lancaster's side, which could need two victories over the next three weekends to preserve its No 4 spot in world rankings. That would ensure them a crucial top seeding for the pool draw for the 2015 World Cup on December 3.

Despite the scoreline, this was a good workout for England, which had to wait until the 16th minute to have possession in Fiji's half.

The home defence stood firm - even while halfback Danny Care was in the sin-bin for a spear tackle - and when England finally found its attacking rhythm, it was one-way traffic.

"We were pretty slow out of the blocks but we eventually worked our way into the game," England captain Chris Robshaw said. "When we went through the phases, we scored tries."

After Flood's first penalty, in the 19th minute, Tuilagi and the superb Alex Goode combined to supply Sharples, who cut in from his right wing and burrowed past four tacklers to stretch over for his first international try.

Fiji was now completely on the back foot, with its set piece malfunctioning. England's second try came when its powerful scrum forced the visiting pack to retreat and eventually collapse near the line. Kiwi referee Glen Jackson, in charge of his first test, had no option but to award a penalty try.

And when Monye - playing his first test in 32 months - scurried over down the left flank after a quick tap from Goode, Fiji traipsed back into the dressing rooms 25-0 down and facing a heavy beating, a fifth in a row against the English. Both of those late first-half tries came while Fiji captain Deacon Manu was in the sin-bin for persistent team offending.

Lancaster had selected one of the most inexperienced England XVs in the professional era - with just 215 caps among them - but the young team's composure mirrors that of its coach.

They kept doing the basics well and after Flood booted his third penalty to get the scoreboard ticking over again, Johnson plunged over in the corner five minutes later as Fiji's wide defence grasped at thin air.

Matawalu gave the South Sea islanders something to cheer by pouncing on turnover ball, hacking forward and beating Goode and Tuilagi to the finish. But normal service resumed when Sharples took Flood's floated miss-pass and checked inside for his second try.

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Flood converted before being replaced by Owen Farrell, one of many substitutions that affected the flow of the game.

England, now living in Fiji's 22, botched a number of openings before Tuilagi bulldozed over for his second try.

Though Fiji had the last laugh through Kalou.

England 54 (Charlie Sharples 2, penalty, Ugo Monye, Tom Johnson, Manu Tuilagi 2 tries; Toby Flood 3 penalties; Toby Flood 4, Owen Farrell conversions), Fiji 12 (Nikola Matawalu, Seko Kalou tries; Josh Matavesi conversion). HT: 25-0.

- AP

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