A bizarre second-half try helped England overcome a ragged first half and eventually overwhelm Japan 34-12 on Sunday, earning themselves a bonus-point victory and planting one foot firmly in the World Cup quarter-finals.
With the game poised at 13-12, England captain Courtney Lawes cantered in for a try as the Japanese players stopped, expecting to hear the referee’s whistle for a knock-on. However, the ball had deflected off the considerable head of prop Joe Marler and the try stood.
That turned the tide as England ran in four tries in all - having scored only five in their previous five matches - with George Ford again superb off the tee.
For the first 50 minutes though England had looked devoid of ideas, routinely kicking away possession, making way too many errors and some inexplicable decisions, and they were even booed by their own frustrated fans at one point.
England face Chile next weekend then have a two-week break before their final game against Samoa with a quarter-final against either Wales, Fiji or Australia looming.
"We knew we would get the rewards if we kept doing the right things," said England coach Steve Borthwick.
"The players have got to find a way to get the result. You saw a Japan team who kicked the ball 37 times, which tells you a lot about the conditions tonight."
Lesson learned, they went for the posts with another penalty to make it 13-9 at the break.
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