What was hot and what was not from the opening game of the 2015 World Cup between England and Fiji
England left it late in the opening game of the 2015 World Cup but they did eventually wrap up a bonus-point win over Fiji when Billy Vunipola got the tip of the ball on the line in the last minute. They dominated the first 22 minutes, scoring two tries to lead 15-0, but then fell flat. The Fijians caused them problems at the breakdown and it took two tries in the last ten minutes for Chris Robshaw’s side to secure that bonus point, which will be crucial in Pool A.
The Twickenham atmosphere – So often berated for being too quiet and too corporate, the Twickenham crowd made themselves heard at the opening game of RWC 2015. Well, at least early on. The noise dipped when the match itself didn’t quite go as expected for the vast swathes bedecked in white England shirts. It picked up in the last ten, though, when England needed some vocal support – and was raucous when they got the fourth try. Long may a spine-tingling atmosphere at Twickers continue.
Mike Brown – There were a couple of mistakes early on but he backed himself to score in the face of two defenders in the first half and when England needed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second he stood up, continually running the ball back at Fiji. He supported play well and was perfectly placed to take an offload from Owen Farrell to score his second try and from the restart weaved through the Fiji defence to lift the crowd and his team.
Fiji’s forwards – A couple of times they were overwhelmed at the scrum and in the maul, but on the whole they held their own with Manasa Saulo particularly impressive. They also constantly disrupted England at the breakdown, winning numerous turnovers and penalties that meant the hosts could get no flow to their game.
Impact subs – Joe Launchbury stopped Nemani Nadolo in full stride within minutes of arriving on the pitch while Billy Vunipola was like a man possessed when he came on. He was constantly offering himself as a carrier (as did Sam Burgess) and made a few big hits.
The TMO process – In the first half-hour the TMO was used four times, making the length of the game at that point 40 minutes in real time. Not only was the length of time a worry, but the fact that Ben Volavola was about to take the conversion before the officials realised Nikola Matawalu had dropped the ball before grounding it showed there are still flaws in the whole process. Surely with all this Hawkeye technology, the eagle eyes in the truck should have spotted that sort of error sooner?
Fijian discipline – First Dominiko Waqaniburotu was penalised for a dangerous tackle on Jonny May, next Nikola Matawalu was sin-binned for joining England’s driving maul at the side (an act which resulted in a penalty try) and then Api Ratuniyarawa was pinged for not using his arms in a clearout. Fiji will need to be more disciplined if they’re to make an impact in this tournament.
Slick attack – There was little of the flicks and tricks we expected from Fiji while England’s attack more often resulted in a knock-on before it went along the line and in the end they resorted to more of a power game, using big ball-carriers like Billy Vunipola and Sam Burgess to try to break the gain-line.
3 – The number of scrums England lost. Fiji won all seven of theirs.
24 – The number of handling errors: England (11) and Fiji (13).
11 – The number of turnovers won by Fiji compared to four by England.
England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, B Barritt (S Burgess 62), J May; G Ford (O Farrell 62), B Youngs (R Wigglesworth 52); J Marler (M Vunipola 52), T Youngs (R Webber
74), D Cole (K Brookes 68), G Parling (J Launchbury 52), C Lawes, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan (B Vunipola 52).
Tries (4): Penalty, Brown 2, Vunipola. Cons: Ford, Farrell 2. Pens: Ford 2, Farrell.
Fiji: M Talebula; W Nayacalevu, V Goneva, G Lovobalavu, N Nadolo; B Volavola, N Matawalu; C Ma’afu (P Ravai 74), S Koto (T Talemaitoga 74), M Saulo (I Colati 76), A Ratuniyarawa (T Cavubati ht), L Nakarawa, D Waqaniburotu (P Yato 60), A Qera (capt), S Masi Matadigo.
Yellow card: Matawalu (13-23).
Try: Nadolo. Pens: Nadolo, Volavola.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Man of the Match: Mike Brown