Rugby World Cup: Ups, down and player ratings as England beat USA
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Victory in their opening game against Tonga was a good start for England at the Rugby World Cup, even if the performance wasn’t without its worries. It was much better though in game number two as the USA were swept aside in a 45-7 win. It was therefore a much happier Neil Metcalfe from the Herts Advertiser who watched events unfold in Kobe.
Another bonus point win, this one secured nice and early and with plenty of exciting attacking play.
In fact it was so good that at one point during the second half that I was having to really think about whether there were any downs. I found some naturally enough as I'm a grumpy old so and so but there weren't too many.
Like the Tonga win, a bonus-point victory and no injuries were the minimum requirements from the game and in that respect it was mission accomplished even if Owen Farrell finished the match "missing half his nose" according to head coach Eddie Jones.
That was after what quite frankly was a disgraceful challenge, and I used that word loosely. It was late, after the whistle, shoulder first straight into Farrell's head and he certainly wasn't "trying to pull out of it" as his skipper tried to insist.
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If you're coming into a challenge but hear a whistle, your hands automatically come up to cushion the impact. John Quill didn't remotely do anything like that.
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I'll get to George Ford shortly but wonderful to see Jack Singleton get 12 minutes at the end. A couple of line-ups that were bang on the money and it was him who set up Ellis Genge for his charge down the left.
What else I saw is here with my ups and downs.
George Ford - Was captain with Owen Farrell just on the bench but he led from the front. I always groan when we kick it when there seems to be options to keep the ball in hand but his nudges were all on the money and he had the ability and vision to bring others into the play. There was only one person who I thought was better, see the player ratings below for him, but this was a majestic performance.
Catch and drive - Worked like a charm against the Eagles who didn't have a clue it seemed how to stop it. They won't have it so easy in the future but the practice that it essentially provided will be invaluable
Argentina and France - It was always going to come down to England's last two games but they will enter the contests against the Pumas and Les Bleus high on confidence. And the manner of the wins against Tonga and USA will have been vital, both needing different aspects to see England advance. They did it both times, they need to do it again.
Seven points against - Time was in the red and the commentators were explaining that a clean sheet would be England's first in a World Cup but the red shirts decided to attack from their own half. A slippy ball with perspiring hands saw a turnover and eventually a try for the Eagles. You could see what England were thinking, they wanted 50 points, but if we had picked up any injuries it would have been annoying. As it was it was just a minor irritant but would have been nice to keep nil.
Slippy hands - Not much England can do about this on face value, the high humidity and sweat causing the ball to resemble a bar of soap in the closing stages. I'm sure in an era of marginal gains the backroom staff have explored what they can do to remedy this, as will all the other teams, but it is a worry to think that closing stages of important matches may be decided by this factor.
Sending off - Mentioned above, worth mentioning again just as it was that bad. One good point was the referee was convinced and clear it was red. No need for citing later in the week.
Ratings: Marler 7, Cown-Dickie 5, Cole 6, Lunchbury 7, Kruis 6, Curry 7, Ludlam 8, Vunipola 7, Heinz 7, Ford 9, Cokanasiga 7, Francis 6, Joseph 10, McConnochie 7, Daly 5.
Replacements: Singleton 6, Genge 7, Sinckler 7, Lawes 7, Wilson 6, Youngs 5, Farrell 6, Watson 6.