England thrash Japan at Twickenham
REPORT: Guy Porter scored his first two Test tries as England revived their end-of-year campaign with a dominant 52-13 win over Japan at Twickenham on Saturday.
England ran in six tries in total, all converted by captain Owen Farrell, as well as being awarded a penalty try, in an enterprising display far removed from their turgid 29-30 loss at home to Argentina in their November opener last weekend.
This was only the second match between the teams in the professional era, with England winning 35-15 at Twickenham when they last met four years ago after the Cherry Blossoms led 15-10 at half-time.
But there was no repeat on Saturday, with the dry conditions and Japan’s desire to play a running game of their own making it easier for England to attack than it had been against Argentina.
England forced Japan to concede several costly scrum penalties, as they scored three first-half tries through fullback Freddie Steward, flyhalf Marcus Smith and Porter to lead 24-6 at the break.
England coach Eddie Jones, a former Japan boss, had made several changes, with wing Jonny May, scrumhalf Jack van Poortvliet and Sam Simmonds all recalled in a bid to inject extra pace into the team.
But England suffered a setback shortly before kick-off when Jack Nowell was ruled out by an abdominal injury, with his place on the right wing taken by Joe Cokanasiga.
Farrell opened the scoring with an early penalty before England had their first try in the 12th minute.
From an attacking line-out off a scrum penalty, England won possession and the ball was worked quickly from Farrell to Smith, with the No.10 sending in Steward on an angled run that left the Japan defence flat-footed.
Farrell converted and England led 10-0.
Smith had a kick charged down and a couple of knock-ons halted England’s momentum.
But a fine counter-attacking run by Steward released Cokanasiga, who sent in Smith for a try in the right corner that Farrell converted to leave England 17-0 up.
Japan, playing the attacking game that saw them impress on home soil at the 2019 World Cup, eventually got into the game but were limited to two penalties from flyhalf Takuya Yamasawa.
May, making his first Test appearance in a year because of injury and Covid, was shown a yellow card for killing the ball after hauling down Japan centre Dylan Riley in sight of England’s tryline.
But despite being a man down, England struck on the stroke of half-time when a long cut-out pass from van Poortvliet allowed Simmonds to send in Porter for the Leicester midfielder’s debut Test try.
The faultless Farrell converted and England were well ahead at half-time.
Ellis Genge extended England’s lead when the prop powered over from close range early in the second half, with inside centre Farrell again adding the extras.
Moments later, England had their fifth try when Porter, winning just his third cap, ran onto an excellently weighted grubber kick from Farrell.
Japan managed a try of when Naoto Saito went over just before the hour mark for a score converted by fellow replacement back Seungsin Lee.
But with 10 minutes left, England were awarded a penalty try as Japan replacement Siosaia Fifita was sin-binned for bringing down a maul.
And there was still time for Smith to score his second try when he raced onto a kick ahead from replacement back Henry Slade.
England face New Zealand at Twickenham next weekend before finishing their Autumn Nations campaign at home to world champions South Africa on November 26.
Man of the match: Marcus Smith and Guy Porter both scored two tries in the game, while Owen Farrell again produced a masterclass in goal-kicking and with his play on defence. No.6 Michael Leitch had a satisfactory performance for Japan. Japan lock Warner Dearns was probably his team’s best player with his sheer power in open play and he set up his team’s only try of the game. However, the award goes to England fullback Freddie Steward who produced another strong performance. He was exceptional under the high ball and he scored a fantastic try as well. He made some serious metres when he ran with ball in hand.
Tries: Steward, Smith 2, Porter 2, Genge, Penalty Try
Cons: Farrell 6
Pens: Yamasawa 2
Yellow cards: Jonny May (England, 35′ – cynical play, tackler not releasing on the ground); Siosaia Fifita (Japan, 70′ – cynical play, side entry at maul)
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Takuya Yamasawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Kazuki Himeno, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Jack Cornelsen, 4 Warner Dearns, 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Atsushi Sakate (captain), 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Yusuke Kizu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Pieter Labuschagne, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Seungsin Lee, 23 Siosaia Fifita.
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia) & Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)