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Saxons demolish Tonga, Azzurri hold on

12th June 2011 16:57

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Matt Stevens Saxons scrum churchill cup 2011

Powerhouse: Matt Stevens

England Saxons cruised into the Churchill Cup Final on Sunday with a 41-14 win over Tonga at a soggy Kingsholm.

Saracens prop Matt Stevens was a standout performer as the Saxons scrum power produced three penalty tries with England boss Martin Johnson an interested onlooker.

A try from captain Jordan Crane and the first two penalty tries helped the Saxons to a 24-0 half-time lead. Billy Twelvetrees also got on the scoresheet after the break.

The result sets up a repeat of last year's final against the Canucks (England won 38-18).

"I thought our scrummaging was outstanding," said Saxons Head Coach Stuart Lancaster.

"We gave a couple of kgs away per man but technically we were better. If you'd have said at the start of the game that we were going to win 41-14 I would have taken that. Our objective was to reach the final and now we want to win it - last year Canada gave us a real hard game and I am sure it will be the same this time."

Tonga will now play Italy A or Russia in the Plate final.

"It was a very tough match. I am very disappointed with the penalty tries. Without them we would have been in the game," said Tonga coach Isitolo Maka.

The Saxons broke through after just 11 minutes when referee Roman Poite lost patience with the collapsing Tongan scrum and awarded a penalty try which Rory Clegg converted.

And four minutes later they were 14-0 up when Crane picked up and drove over to give Clegg another two points.

Tonga struggled to make any inroads into the Saxons 22 with their only good run coming from centre Suka Hufanga but the move broke down.

The Saxons pack were in the ascendency as they sent the Tongan scrum upwards and backwards and Poite headed to the posts for another penalty try.

Right on halftime Clegg made it 24-0 with a penalty and the Saxons continued to turn the screw early in the second half when the fly half landed another.

However, Tonga refused to throw in the towel and they were rewarded for their endeavour to take the line-out rather than penalty kick when captain Kisi Pulu took the ball at the back and when the ball was recycled Scarlets bound- Sione Timani drove over.

But it was small respite as the Saxons forwards overpowered their opponents in another scrum and Poite awarded a hat-trick of penalty tries in the 63rd minute and Ofa Fainga'anuku was yellow carded for his sins.

Mike Brown made an impact when he came on and made a midfield break before Crane showed some deft footwork with a grubberkick for Twelvetrees to gather and score.

That was the end of Twelvetrees' involvement as he was sent to the sinbin and Pepa Kolomotangi scored a consolation try when he picked up and drove over.

The scorers:

For Saxons:
Tries: Crane, Twelvetrees, Penalty tries 3
Cons: Clegg 5
Pens: Clegg 2

For Tonga:
Tries: Koloamatangi, Timani
Cons: KS Morath 2

Yellow cards: Fainga'anuku (Tonga - 62nd min); Twelvetrees (England - 73rd min)

England Saxons:15 Alex Goode 14 Charlie Sharples , 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Jordan Crane(c), 7 Tom Johnson, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Mouritz Botha , 3 Matt Stevens, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Graham Kitchener, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Micky Young, 21 Jordan Turner-Hall, 22 Mike Brown.

Tonga: 15 Etimoni Paea, 14 Viliami Helu, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Etueni Siua, 11 Viliami Iongi, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Daniel Morath, 8 Pasuka Mapakaitolo, 7 Pepa Koloamatangi, 6 Josh Afu, 5 Emosi Kauhenga, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Semisi Telefoni, 1 Tonga Lea'aetoa.
Replacements:16 Antonio Halangahu, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Paino Hehea, 19 Tevita Ula, 20 Soane Havea, 21 Sione Fonua, 22 Mateo Malupo.


In Sunday's second match, Italy 'A' survived a second-half Russian fightback to book their place in the Churchill Cup Plate final with a 24-19 win.

The Azzurri led 18-6 at the break but they held on by their fingertips in the last 20 minutes to set up a showdown with Tonga at Sixways on Saturday.

"It was a tough game and in the second half they put some width of the game. But our scrummage was good and gave us a foundation," said former Gloucester lock Marco Bortolami.

Senior Italian assistant coach Alessandra Troncon added: "It was a very important to win because last week we lost to Canada. Russia arein our pool during the World Cup so to win is a good. The scrum saved us a few times so I think it as key for us today."

Russia face a Bowl final against their World Cup opponents USA and Bears' boss Kingsley Jones said: "It's a game we should have won. These lads can really play rugby but there was some naivety and not being street wise. But there are a lot of positives. A lot of the players showed what they can do in open space. The line-out improved but the scrum was an issue for us."

Italy led by nine at halftime thanks to tries from Matteo Pratichetti and Giulio Toniolatti, who went into the corner after a drive and deft offload from loosehead prop Alberto de Marchi.

Russia had to rely on the boot of Yury Kushnarev, who kicked two penalties and then added a third early in the second half to close the gap to nine points.

Tito Tebaldi landed a third penalty but then the tide turned as Russia scored the try of the match, a breakaway from their own 22 when Andrey Bykanov scooped up a loose ball, fed Kushnarev and when Rushan Yagudin took the ball on halfway he stepped out of the tackle and raced away.

With Tebaldi in the sinbin for killing the ball after Vasily Artemyev's break, Riccardo Bocchino stretched the lead.

Kushnarev failed with two attempts that could have put Russia right back into the game and was soon replaced by Anton Ryabov.

Tebaldi missed a penalty and Russia almost hit the killer button when Alexander Shakirov made the break and only a last ditch tackle from Matteo Pratichetti stopped him delivering the final pass to Yagudin.

Russia had a final crack with a freekick which they ran close to the Italian line but they could not capitalise and the chance was lost.

The scorers

For Italy A:
Tries: Pratichetti, Toniolatti
Con: Tebaldi
Pens: Tebaldi 3, Bocchino

For Russia:
Try: Yagudin
Con: Kushnarev
Pens: Kushnarev 4

Italy A: R. Trevisan, G. Toniolatti, A. Pratichetti, A. Pratichetti, M. Sepe; R. Bocchino, T.Tebaldi; A. De Marchi, T. D'Aspice, F. Staibano, J. Furno, V. Bernabo (C), F.Minto, M. Bergamasco, M. Vosawai Reps: A. Manici, M. Aguero, D. Chistolini, M. Bortolami, D. Gerber, G. Venditti, N. Belardo

Russia: I. Klyuchnikov; V. Artemyev, M. Babaev, S. Trishin, R. Yagudin; Y. Kushnarev, A. Bykanov; G. Tsnobiladze, V. Tsnobiladze, A. Chernyshev, A. Panasenko, D. Antonov, V. Gresev, M. Sidorov, V. Grachev (C) Reps: V. Korshunov, A. Travkin, I.Prishchepenko, A. Garbuzov, A. Shakirov, A. Ryabov, I. Galinovsky

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3Tonga49
4Canada46
5Japan42