But a blitz of tries at the start of the second half diminished any hopes of a Fiji upset, and means Steve McNamara’s men will play the loser of Monday’s final group game between France and Samoa in the last eight.
Prior to the game, a minute’s silence was held for rugby league champion Steve Prescott, who lost his battle with cancer in the early hours of this morning, and for Rememberance Day, and it soon erupted into spontaneous applause.
After that sombre opening, the game took a while to get going, the only event of note in the first 19 minutes coming when Rangi Chase‘s grubber kick forced a drop out.
A spear tackle by Korbin Sims, one of three brothers in a Fiji team that contained two other sets of brothers, on James Graham gifted England field position in the redzone, and he was indebted to his brother Ashton, who put in a try saving tackle on Sam Burgess, just when the Souths man looked set to reach out to score.
Fiji were unfortunate not to take the lead on 24 minutes, when Aaron Groom‘s kick was fumbled by Sam Tomkins through his own legs, and Daryl Millard pounced to ground, only for the video referee to rule that Tomkins had been taken out by one of the Sims brothers, much to the surprise of many in the ground.
It took 10 more minutes until the deadlock was broken and it was Fiji who got the game’s first points. Following a knock-on by Leroy Cudjoe, Groom’s flat pass sent Tariq Sims bursting through the line and he found Eloni Vunakece on his right shoulder, to the delight of their vocal support in the KC Stadium’s west stand.
No doubt fresh from a half-time rocket off Steve McNamara, England took the lead just 25 seconds in to the second half.
There was controversy over the fourth try, eventually awarded to Ryan Hall. The Leeds winger had took on his man on the outside to put the ball down, but the touchjudge ruled he had put a foot in touch. As the two packs prepared for the scrum, replays on the big screen seemed to suggest it was worth a look, and referee Ben Cummins went upstairs. He looked out on one angle and in on another, and the try was eventually awarded, with Sinfield landing his fourth successful conversion to push the score out to 24-6.
Substitute Rob Burrow, making his first appearance of the tournament, got in on the act following a break by George Burgess on 53 minutes, and five minutes later, Hall grabbed his second with a trademark score in the corner.
Photo courtesy of www.swpix.com
England: Tomkins, Briscoe, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall, Chase, Sinfield, S Burgess, McIlorum, Graham, Ferres, Westwood, O’Loughlin. Interchanges: Burrow, Farrell, Hill, G Burgess.
Scorers: Tries – Westwood (38), S Burgess (41), Ferres (44), Hall (49, 58), Burrow (53) Goals – Sinfield 5/6
Fiji: K Naiqama, Koroibete, D Millard, W Naiqama, Waqa, R Millard, Groom, A Sims, Storer, Civoniceva, T Sims, Bukuya, K Sims. Interchanges: Vunakece, Botiki, Roqica, Evans.
Scorers: Tries – Vunakece (35), Waqa (73) Goals – W Naiqama 2/2
Venue: KC Stadium, Hull