Rugby World Cup: England 35-3 Tonga

By Patric Ridge 22 September 2019 17
Rugby World Cup: England 35-3 Tonga

Manu Tuilagi led the way for England as Eddie Jones' side began their Rugby World Cup campaign with a convincing 35-3 victory over Tonga.

Tuilagi was not selected for Stuart Lancaster's 2015 World Cup squad after he admitted to assaulting two police officers, though he made up for lost time in England's opening Pool C match in Sapporo.

Having put England ahead after Sonatane Takulua had cancelled out Owen Farrell's penalty, Tuilagi charged in for his second at the culmination of a slick move.

Jones emphasised the importance of his side getting their tactics on point and, with Tonga's resistance broken, Farrell's excellent kicking tightened England's stranglehold, with Jamie George getting in on the act before Luke Cowan-Dickie secured the bonus point.

An exchange of penalties had the scores level after a bright start from both sides.

England thought they had the lead when Sam Underhill barged over following a brilliant break from Tuilagi, only for TMO to confirm he had been held up.

England were not to be denied by the video official two minutes later, however, with a review unable to disprove the referee's on-field decision that Tuilagi had grounded in the corner, although captain Farrell failed to add the extras.

Tuilagi had his second soon enough, racing over after Jonny May got clear down the left flank, with Farrell making no mistake on this occasion before landing a second penalty to hand England a 15-point cushion heading into the interval.

With Farrell having added to his tally early in the second half, Underhill's fumble cost England the chance to further their lead, though George made no such mistake as he bundled his way through a crowd of players in the 56th minute.

Henry Slade's poor pass looked to have squandered England's final opportunity for a fourth try, but substitute Cowan-Dickie added the gloss with four minutes remaining.

Inspired Tuilagi too good for Tonga

Tuilagi, a Samoan native, became the first foreign-born player to score in three different World Cup matches for England with his first try, having also gone over in two games during the 2011 tournament.

He missed the shambiolic 2015 World Cup campaign but was in superb form from the off on Sunday, displaying pace, power and skill. Should he maintain this level of performance, England could have a contender for player of the tournament in their ranks.

Vunipola's shaky start

It was a momentous day for Billy Vunipola, whose father Fe'ao featured for Tonga at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, and the England eight would have been eager to impress.

However, he was the target of some tough Tongan tackling early on, with his error following Zane Kapeli's huge challenge leading to the islanders' first points and it may be something England's other Pool C opponents take note of.

Key Opta facts

- England have won five games by 30+ points in 2019, no other side competing at the World Cup has managed that on more than two occasions this year.
- England have not conceded a try in their past last two Test matches. They conceded at least once in each of the 18 Tests before that.
- Tuilagi scored his 15th and 16th international tries. Only Will Greenwood (31), Jeremy Guscott (30) and Jonathan Joseph (17) have managed more while playing at centre for England. No player has scored more than Tuilagi's five in Test rugby while playing at centre this year.
- Farrell scored 15 points for England to take him to 58 in the Rugby World Cup, the fifth England player to reach a half century of points in the tournament.
- Cowan-Dickie's three tries for England have come in his most recent five Tests, also crossing against both Wales and Ireland at Twickenham in August this year.

What's next?

The United States are next up for England on Thursday in Kobe, while Tonga face Argentina two days later.

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Patric Ridge