NICE, FRANCE (AP) – England wore down Japan then used a bizarre try to play unrestrained and roll to 34-12 for a second straight victory at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
With Japan trailing only 13-12 nearing the hour mark, the odd try gave England breathing space.
Flyhalf George Ford’s pass glanced off prop Will Stuart’s arm backwards and ricocheted forwards off prop Joe Marler’s mohawk into the grateful hands of captain Courtney Lawes who strolled in between the posts. Ford’s conversion made it 20-12.
“I thanked him (Marler). A bit of luck, sometimes it falls in your favour. I’ll take it,” said Lawes, who acknowledged England was not fluent. “Conditions were pretty tough to move the ball in, but you saw in parts what we can do. Hopefully by the time it comes to the quarterfinals we’ll be able to stick it. We’ll need to.”
Moments after his try, Japan cut through England’s defence but knocked on with the line in sight and momentum was lost. England’s third try followed, when Ford sent a clever crosskick from right to left and fullback Freddie Steward caught it and twisted over in the 66th.
But not until the cusp of fulltime did England deliver the bonus-point fourth try. Good work from right winger Jonny May finished with centre Joe Marchant diving across.
“They’re a great team, Japan, they challenge you in different ways,” Ford said. “We knew it wouldn’t be until the third or fourth quarter until we could potentially pull away a bit. I’m just over the moon to get another win.”
Japan coach Jamie Joseph focused on the positives.
“We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes,” he said. “England put us under a lot of pressure but there were times I thought it was a real arm wrestle, we just needed to capitalise on those opportunities and we couldn’t.”