World Cup Report: England 34-12 Fiji

England suffered a first half scare before running in five second half tries to beat Fiji34-12 and book a quarter-final date at Wigan next Saturday.

The game was scoreless for more than half an hour, and England found themselves tied at 6-6 at the break after Ben Westwood had replied to Eloni Vunakece‘s opening score.

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.

England managed to restore parity before the interval, captain Kevin Sinfield taking on the line and dummying, before releasing an offload inside to Ben Westwood for 6-6 at the break.

No doubt fresh from a half-time rocket off Steve McNamara, England took the lead just 25 seconds in to the second half.

Sinfield’s superb kick-off spun back in to England hands, and a couple of tackles later, Sam Burgess took three defenders with him to ground the ball over the whitewash.

That triggered a decisive 15 minute period for England, where they registered four more tries to break Fiji‘s resolve.

A penalty in midfield set the field position up for the third try, Brett Ferres finding the line from Rangi Chase‘s short ball.

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.

Fiji ensured they bookended England‘s 34 points, Sisi Waqa finishing smartly in the corner with less than 10 minutes on the clock to complete a brave effort by Rick Stone’s side.

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

Attendance: 25,114

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