England 35-15 Japan: Eddie Jones’ side hold off spirited visitors

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England 35-15 Japan: Eddie Jones’ side hold off spirited visitors

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England 35-15 Japan: Second-half tries from Cokanasiga and Hartley give England victory
Autumn internationals: England v Japan
England: (10) 35
Tries: Care, Wilson, Cokanasiga, Hartley Cons: Ford 3 Pens: Ford 2, Daly
Japan: (15) 15
Tries: Nakamura, Leitch Cons: Tamura Pens: Tamura
Coverage: Highlights on BBC Two and online at 19:30 GMT

England ran in three second-half tries to come from behind and beat an inspired Japan on a testing afternoon at Twickenham.

Japan had been in front 15-10 at half-time, a lead fully deserved after tries from Ryoto Nakamura and captain Michael Leitch capped some wonderfully inventive attacking rugby.

Eddie Jones had spoken of “emotionally smashing” the side he used to coach but an upset on par with the famous toppling of South Africa in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup seemed on the cards.

Only late in the game, after debut international tries for Mark Wilson and Joe Cokanasiga and two penalties from George Ford, did England take any sort of control.

The relief was obvious around Twickenham, the performance more a rescue mission than a statement of intent 10 months out from the World Cup.

Japan will host that tournament and their education from a series of games against the tier one nations continues to draw dividends.

Brilliant Japan stun England

Jones had made 11 changes from the side that had come so close to beating New Zealand a week ago, and two of those men combined early as debutant winger Cokanasiga counter-attacked down the left wing before Danny Care took Jamie George’s pass to race away for the opening try.

But Japan then enjoyed a fine spell of possession and territory, with Yu Tamura’s penalty small reward until Akihito Yamada picked off an intercept down the right and found men in support.

With Jamie George sin-binned after going off his feet in desperate defence, Nakamura burst on to Fumiaki Tanaka’s flat pass off a scrum 10 yards out and straight through Alex Lozowski, and Japan were ahead.

Better was to come for Jamie Joseph’s men. After Elliot Daly’s penalty from halfway had levelled it up at 10-10, Leitch battered through Care’s attempted tackle and stepped past last man Daly to dive over in the corner.

A sleepy Twickenham was stunned, with Japan playing with pace and invention, and England left leaden-footed in defence and predictable on their few attacks.

Leitch was almost in again down the right just before half-time, his side enjoying 69% possession and 77% territory, and England were fortunate to be just five points down at the interval.

Farrell helps spare England’s blushes

Jones threw on Sam Underhill and Ben Moon into his pack as England looked to find some answers and a semblance of control.

Kyle Sinckler was next on, for Harry Williams, as the minutes ticked by with no shift in the balance of power, and when England did threaten the Japanese line, they were penalised for holding on.

Only with 22 minutes to go did they take the lead, with Ford’s dummy pass opening a gap in the defensive line and his inside ball finding Wilson cantering through.

Ford’s conversion made it 20-15, and his penalty shortly afterwards opened a little daylight on a clear autumn afternoon.

Cokanasiga then sealed his debut in fine fashion after replacement Richard Wigglesworth had burst clear down the left, with Owen Farrell making a real impact off the bench in England’s midfield.

His fellow finisher Dylan Hartley came up with his second try of the autumn off a driving maul in the final few minutes as the Brave Blossoms finally wilted.

With a struggling Australia coming to Twickenham in seven days’ time, Jones will hope to make it three wins from four this month.

But his side will need to produce a full 80-minute performance after three matches so far where they have excelled only in spells.

Man of the match – Maro Itoje (England)

The vice-captain was a menace at the breakdown and in the loose after England had initially shipped far too many penalties, Leitch running him close as he made as many line-breaks in the first half as the entire home team.

‘The finishers made a massive difference’ – what they said

England head coach Eddie Jones: “We wanted Japan to be at their best so we’re so pleased with that game; it’s the sort of game we needed.

“They had a few things go their way and got back into the game and it became an arm wrestle for a while.

“We had a team with 11 changes and there wasn’t a lot of cohesion, but Owen Farrell made a difference for our team because he’s an influential player.”

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph: “We gave sloppy penalties away and allowed England back in which was a little bit disappointing, but I’m proud of the players all the same.

“Comments in the media helped our motivation. Eddie Jones’ comments fired me up a bit but at the end of the day we still prepare how we prepare.

“Our mentality is slowly changing, we’re starting to believe that we can take these bigger teams on and that’s going to help us next year.”

England’s man of the match Maro Itoje: “Against any team in international rugby, we know the opposition will have quality and Japan had a lot of quality; they didn’t give up.

“Their breakdown game was very strong and they did well in that area in the first half.

“Eddie spoke at half-time with Dylan [Hartley] as well as George [Ford]. They spoke to the team to try to get us back on track. We just needed to up it. They were beating us round the corner and winning the one on ones.”

England fly-half George Ford: “It was obviously very disappointing in the first half; our attitude wasn’t quite there. That’s not good when you’re playing for England.

“The finishers made a massive difference. They’re there to come on and give energy to the game. They swung the game our way.

“It was disappointing that it had to come to that, but that’s what the squad is for.”

Line-ups

England: Daly; Cokanasiga, Nowell, Lozowski, Ashton; Ford (c), Care; Hepburn, George, Williams, Ewels, Itoje, Lawes, Wilson, Mercer.

Replacements: Farrell for Lozowski (41), Wigglesworth for Care (60), Moon for Hepburn (49), Hartley for George (73), Sinckler for Williams (51), Hill for Ewels (75), Underhill for Mercer (49).

Not Used: Slade.

Sin-bin: George (20).

Japan: Tupou; Yamada, Lafaele, Nakamura, Fukuoka; Tamura, Tanaka; Inagaki, Sakate, Koo, van der Walt, Helu, Leitch (c), Nishikawa, Himeno.

Replacements: Matsuda for Tamura (70), Nagare for Tanaka (41), Niwai for Sakate (70), Anise for Helu (41), Tui for Himeno (60).

Not Used: Yamanaka, Ai Valu, Nunomaki.

Attendance: 81,000

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