Planet Rugby

England find their Mojo

24th September 2011 06:26

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Mark Cueto number 3 England v Romania

That's three: Mark Cueto

Wings Mark Cueto and Chris Ashton both claimed hat-tricks as England smashed Romania 67-3 in Dunedin on Saturday.

England ran in a total of ten tries in a woefully one-sided encounter under the roof of the Otago Stadium.

Cueto grabbed his hat-trick of tries inside the first half-hour and Ashton added two more before half time to give England a 34-3 lead at the break.

The result moves England five points clear of Scotland - who face Argentina on Sunday - at the top of the group, virtually assuring their place in the quarter-finals.

Romania's only reply came through a first-half penalty from fly-half Marin Dumbrava.

The Northampton wing Ashton completed his own hat-trick in the second half after Ben Youngs, Ben Foden, Manu Tuilagi and Tom Croft had all joined in on the try-scoring festival.

It was one-way traffic from the first whistle and England will have every right to be pleased with their performance. Just how much can be read into the scoreline against a minnow side featuring a lot of tired legs is debatable, however.

But you can only play what is placed in front of you, and England dominated in every sector.

Most pleasing for manager Martin Johnson will be the massive improvement in England's distribution and option taking, with nine out of ten tries being scored by back-line players (even Croft's try came out wide).

England were seldom troubled by the Oaks in the line-outs, Tuilagi was prominent in midfield while captain Lewis Moody and number eight James Haskell both enjoyed strong games.

There will still be elements that will concern Johnson, notably the needless penalties England conceded early on which undermined an otherwise bright start.

Once the scoreboard was ticking however, England were much cleaner at the breakdown and largely eliminated the sloppy work that characterised last weekend's performance against Georgia.

One cannot help feel that Romania had one eye on Wednesday's clash with Georgia but you can't take anything away from England's best performance at the tournament thus far.

Man of the match: You can't argue with three tries in 26 minutes: Mark Cueto was not only deadly in his primary role of finishing but was solid on defence and looked dangerous with every touch of the ball.

Moment of the match: It took fifteen minutes for England to get their first try but from the moment Ashton cut through the Romanian line to put Cueto clear, the game was all but over. Having missed the wins over Argentina and Georgia due to a back injury, Cueto marked his return in emphatic fashion. England replaced Wilkinson with Toby Flood at half-time - a sign that the struggle for the number ten jersey is far from over.

Villain of the match: No nasty stuff worth reporting.

The scorers:

For England:
Tries: Cueto 3, Ashton 3, Youngs, Foden, Tuilagi, Croft
Cons: Wilkinson 3, Flood 3
Pen: Wilkinson

For Romania:
Pen: Dumbrava

England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 James Haskell, 7 Lewis Moody (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 David Wilson, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Delon Armitage.

Romania: 15 Florin Adrian Vlaicu, 14 Stefan Eugen Ciuntu, 13 Ionel Cazan, 12 Iulian Dumitras, 11 Adrian Marian Apostol, 10 Marin Danut Dumbrava, 9 Lucian Mihai Sirbu, 8 Ovidiu Tonita, 7 Cosmin Aurel Ratiu, 6 Sandu Stelian Burcea, 5 Cristian Constantin Petre (capt), 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Silviu Florea, 2 Bogdan Zebega Suman, 1 Nicolae Nere.
Replacements: 16 Marius Tincu, 17 Paulica Ion, 18 Mihai Macovei, 19 Daniel Gabriel Ianus, 20 Valentin Nicolae Calafeteanu, 21 Csaba Minya Gal, 22 Catalin Marius Nicolae.

Venue: Otago Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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