Before the game of hosts England versus Fiji, the opening ceremony started proceedings. It was a decent effort as opening ceremonies go with the usual mix of fireworks, lights and expressive movement.
With Twickenham packed full to the rafters with English fans and just a smattering of Fijian’s the atmosphere was electric. With both teams in Australia’s pool it was a chance to see what the Wallabies would be up against.
Within 2 minutes of the game kicking off George Ford settled England nerves kicking a penalty after the Fijians collapsed the first scrum. Fiji Had a chance to reply but Nadolo missed. The first try of the game came through a penalty try awarded after the Fijians collapsed a good England driving maul, George Ford duly converted the try and England had a 10-0 lead. With Matawala in the sin bin England put the pressure on Fiji and were rewarded with a try scored by Mike Brown in the 22nd minute.
Fiji scored a try in the 28th minute, but an on screen replay in the stadium showed the player dropped it. A chorus of boos from the English fans and the referee decided to go to the TMO and between them decided no try. A little harsh on the Fijians. They did score 2 minutes later wit a great cross field kick and Nadolo getting the better of Anthony Watson, but Nadolo missed the conversion. Another penalty miss towards the end of the first half by Nadolo left the half time scores 18-8, however if the kicking had gone Fiji’s way England would only have a 2 point lead.
The second half started scrappily with both teams conceding possession through handling errors or lack of discipline. England’s discipline was non-existent for a period and Fiji were awarded two quick penalties but Nadolo missed the first one (which was taken from nearly the half way line), Volovola then stepped up and covered the second, Fiji were now within one score of the English!
A conversion by Farrell in the 68th minute settled England again and from nowhere Mike Brown was at the end of a sweeping English move and scored his second try of the game. With a Farrell conversion the score had moved to 28-11 and the tiring Fijians had no answer to the fresh legs England had introduced.
A try by Billy Vunipola in the last minute, which was awarded after a lengthy review by the TMO meant England secured a bonus point, which might prove essential in qualifying for the knockout stages.
A decent start by the English, the scoreline flattered them a little bit as the Fijians battled hard and were impressive in spells. The game was interrupted by the TMO on too many occasions and I hope that is not a feature of the World Cup, but all in all a great opening game to what will be, i am sure, an excellent tournament.
I expect the Australian camp watched the game intently and will be making adjustments to their plans for their opening game against Fiji on Wednesday in Cardiff. The Fijians showed they can move the ball quickly and can hit on the counter attack. However, as long as the Australian backs can deal with Nadolo, and his kicking boots don’t fire, like they did tonight then the Wallabies can get their campaign off to a start with a win. Can Australia beat England? The coaching team would have noted the lack of discipline by the English at the breakdown area which can certainly be exploited. The Wallabies will surely get a few penalties, they just have to make sure they kick them when they need to !