England opened their November international series account with a 54-12 victory over Fiji which sets them up nicely for facing Australia.
England opened their November Test series account with a decisive 54-12 victory over Fiji, which sets them up nicely for tackling Australia next week.
Following an early blip whereby the islanders held the upper hand, England clicked into gear to claim a seven-try win that will please Stuart Lancaster.
Test debuts were taken by Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola and Joe Launchbury but it was full-back Alex Goode who stole the show on Saturday as he put in an accomplished performance at fifteen.
Much sterner tests are yet to come however.
Fiji had opened the game in impressive style and despite conceding a penalty at the first scrum of the match, they soon settled into a period of huge dominance of both territory and possession. Late call-up from Gloucester, Akapusi Qera was prominent early on alongside Api Naikatani.
Their hopes further improved on nine minutes when England scrum-half Danny Care was shown a yellow by referee Glen Jackson – who was advised by fourth official Craig Joubert – for an alleged tip tackle. It was a tough call from the officials and one that offered the visitors an extra boost, particularly with their 81 per cent possession statistic at that point in the game.
However, England weathered the storm and in fact scored three points while Care was in the bin, Toby Flood knocking over a penalty with 20 minutes played. It proved to be the start of a turnaround in the statistics as confidence started flowing into England's gameplan.
Goode was England's main strike weapon as he vindicated coach Lancaster's decision to move him ahead of Mike Brown. He was popping up in the first line of attack on countless occasions and his one-two combination with Care always kept Fiji's defence guessing.
Two minutes later and the home side had their reward when Care's smart line off the shoulder of Thomas Waldrom led to Manu Tuilagi and Goode combining before wing Charlie Sharples cut back against the grain to beat three defenders. Flood made it 10-0.
England were beginning to turn the screw in front of 82,000 supporters at HQ, and when a Flood penalty on 26 minutes was compounded for the islanders with Deacon Manu yellow carded for repeated infringements, it looked like being the perfect chance to kill the game.
They did just that when a penalty try was awarded before a break then Care almost set up Sharples for his second try only for the TMO to rule “no try” after the ball had hit the flag.
England were over soon after though when Goode's quick thinking on the stroke of half-time saw him tap before setting up Ugo Monye for a simple try that sent them in 25-0 ahead.
Following the turnaround, England came out firing and should have scored to back up Flood's 43rd-minute penalty but Dan Cole chose to run instead of pass. But when a flowing move saw Goode combine with fly-half Flood, England were over with Johnson on the right.
Fiji hit back with a superb solo effort from Glasgow's Nicola Matawalu, who picked off Ugo Monye's pass, stepped past centre Tuilagi and then won the race to his own chip ahead.
England, though, soon had another try on the board when Flood's looping pass sent in Sharples for his second as he gave Lancaster food for thought in Chris Ashton's absence.
Amidst changes, Ben Youngs came on for Care to make the Youngs family the 10th set of brothers to play in the same England side and the first since Steffon and Delon Armitage.
Then, inside the final ten minutes of the match at Twickenham, Tuilagi bolstered England's victory margin with two tries before Fiji replacement Sekonaia Kalou had the final word by crashing over to cap a match that was entertaining from start to finish.
Man of the match: Faultless at the back. Alex Goode wins this one hands down after he slotted into the English line-up with ease. Many had questioned the move to pick him over Mike Brown at number fifteen but Goode silenced all those doubters on Saturday.
Moment of the match: Although it didn't result in a try, Charlie Sharples' grubber down the line which hit the corner flag and bounced back into play could have been brilliant. A close second has to be the try from Nicola Matawalu, a move he had started 60 metres downfield.
Villain of the match: Few incidents to speak of. Danny Care's yellow card was harsh.
Tries: Sharples 2, Penalty, Monye, Johnson, Tuilagi 2
Con: Flood 4, Farrell
Pen: Flood 3
Tries: Matawalu, Kalou Qaraniqio
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Launchbury, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Mike Brown.
Fiji: 15 Simeli Koniferedi, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Metuisela Talebula, 9 Nicola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera 7 Malaki Ravulo, 6 Api Naikatani, 5 Apisolame Ratuniyarawa, 4 Leone Nakawara, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Ratu Makutu.
Replacements: 16 Seremaia Naureure, 17 Setafano Samoca, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Sekonaia Kalou, 20 Iliesa Ratuva, 21 Kelemedi Bola, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Ravai Fatiaki.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa),Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)