Rugby World Cup: Ups, down and player ratings as England beat Tonga
PUBLISHED: 15:58 22 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 22 September 2019
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Every four years England fans have their hopes raised - and almost inevitably dashed - as a World Cup focuses the nation's attention. Sometimes it is football, this year it is rugby union and England got their campaign in Japan started with a 35-3 win over Tonga. See what Herts Advertiser's Neil Metcalfe made of the game in Sapporo.
The minimum that was wanted, in fact the minimum that was needed for England was a four-try, bonus-point win. So in that respect it was a good day.
The very same will be more expected when they take on the USA on Thursday but while the win itself ticked all the boxes there was something about that performance that wasn't quite satisfying.
They left it late to bag try number four, Luke Cowan-Dickie crossing the line on 76 minutes, and it left some fans, this one included, puffing out their cheeks in relief.
In fact all through the game England were less than convincing.
They didn't need to be of course, the bigger games where they need to be cooking with gas will come later down the line, but there too many disappointing performances from those in white shirts.
These are my ups and downs.
Manu Tuilagi - Two tries and one of the few England players that looked likely to make things happen. Made a number of line breaks and did exactly what was expected of him. He's never going to be a jinky runner but brought his A game in the power department. More of that will be needed as the tournament continues.
Replacements - You would have expected Tonga's fitness to drop at the end of the game but the boost that the substitutes gave England should not be under estimated. Cowan-Dickie got the try after a break from Jonathan Joseph and showed what could and should have happened from the starting XV.
The win - Five points are five points and could prove crucial in what is expected to boil down to a three-way dance between England, France and Argentina for the two quarter-final places.
The forwards - It would be easy to single out one or two but in truth one to eight were lacking some conviction. The pushover third try was way too late in coming and was a rare plus point. Too many forwards dropped balls and too many failed to stamp their authority on the game. The backs showed they had the beating of the Tongans but were never get enough opportunity. Must be better in future games.
Unforced errors and basic mistakes - Late on in the game there was a lovely break by Anthony Watson who slalomed through the red shirted defence. His support was achingly slow in arriving but arrive they did and the ball was recycled out to the left wing where England fashioned a two-on-one. Elliot Daly and Henry Slade were not on the same page though and the ball was thrown directly into touch. That was the perfect example of the simple things not done correctly and another was a penalty conceded when Kyle Sinckler was blatantly in front of the play and causing an obstruction. That caused Eddie Jones to thump his desk in frustration. It should be high on his list of things to remedy.
Penalty count - Partly due to the poor performance and partly due to the basic errors but it was way too high and against better teams England will be punished. Most of the errors were avoidable too and there should be no excuse for a squad who have been planning for weeks now.
Ratings: Marler 5, George 5, Sinckler 5, Lawes 6, Itoje 4, Curry 4, Underhill 5, Vunipola 4, Youngs 5, Ford 7, May 6, Farrell 7, Tuilagi 8, Watson 7, Daly 6.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie 7, Genge 6, Cole 6, Kruis 6, Ludlam 6, Heinz 6, Slade 6, Joseph 7.