All home nations gained a bonus point for scoring four tries.
Scotland play first Pool B game on Wednesday.
England, Ireland and Wales claim five points from their opening fixture, gaining a bonus point for four tries or more. Scotland are the last of the home nations to play, with their first game against shock table toppers Japan.
Fiji, Canada and Uruguay succumbed to the home nations without a bonus point for not being within eight points of the victors, but were the victories as straight forward as the score suggests? Perhaps in the Ireland and Wales games but not for England.
Although Stuart Lancaster’s side clinched their fourth try of the game and fulfilled the hype the curtain raiser of a major tournament should. As Billy Vunipola scraped over the try line, unaware of the significance, parties started up and down the country to celebrate a successful opening, but for Fiji the game could have been so different, had they taken their chances.
In front of their home crowd, the hosts gave the crowd a lot to cheer about, going 15-0 up. However, this period was a long time as the television match official was used frequently throughout the match. Fiji had a try disallowed when Nikola Matawalu broke away from the red shirts to score only for the TMO to overrule as the Fijian lost control of the ball before touching down. Danger man Nemani Nadolo eventually got the Flying Fijjians off the mark when Ben Volavola’s cross field kick was caught by the winger, outjumping Anthony Watson touching down for five points.
At 18-8, England were in control, however three missed penalty kicks by the opposition meant the score could have looked so different with nine points taking them to 17 points. One weakness that the Pacific side did target was the kicking, high kicks to push the ball up field were a constant feature with England’s backs seeming to lack confidence under pressure to catch the kicks.
As the last 20 minutes approached, the opponents started to tire with Lancaster’s players seeming to pick up on this, attacking much more direct as they looked to secure their first win of the tournament. Mike Brown scored his second try of the game, needing the TMO to verify the decision, and then Vunipola earned that fifth point which may prove valuable come the end of the group stages of the Rugby World Cup. Eight wins in a row for England now at Twickenham, a place they are making a fortress in recent times. The national stadium will be pivotal in their hunt for success with only their last group game not being played here.
Seven tries saw six conversions and one penalty as Ireland started their World Cup campaign with a victory. The 43 point deficit told the tale as the green of Ireland were ruthless and showed their intent as they look to win their first World Cup. Canada did convert their one try to gain seven points. The home nation’s class was shown as their extra bonus point was secured before half time as Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson, Johnny Sexton and Dave Kearney touched the ball over the all-important white line. Sexton had a conversion rate of 75% while Iain Madigan had a 100% conversion rate.
It was in the second half the reds gained their seven points but three more tries, all converted, from Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney and Jared Payne took the score to 50 points scored. Sexton was instrumental in their victory and showed the point Ireland had to prove after two warm up defeats to England and Wales respectively.
Wales may be the walking wounded but they walk to the top of Pool A thanks to their 54 points against Uruguay. The luck isn’t all in the red’s favour as more injury setbacks affect their 31 man squad. Cory Allen scored three tries in the first half but may not feature again in the tournament, picking up a Hamstring injury in the victory. Unfortunately for the home nation Liam Williams, Paul James and Samson Lee picked up injuries.
Los Teros were in a 6-0 lead as two penalties by Filipe Berchesi put Warren Gatland’s side behind. Even as they started to pull away from the South American side, their opponents never gave up unfortunately unable to match the quality, even when underperforming, losing by 45 points. Gareth Davies scored two tries while Lee, Justin Tipuric and Hallam Amos scored one apiece. Seven out of eight chances were converted by Rhys Priestland. Under par, the home side still blew the opposition away with the score line.
Scotland’s task just got harder as Japan achieved their first World Cup win since 1991, beating a South African side who haven’t lost an opening match in the competition for 20 years. The Springboks had 851 caps between them, making the blossoms a side to be reckoned with.
Having beaten the Asian side in the last four attempts, Scotland will be backing themselves to make it five wins out of five. Vern Cotter’s side have underperformed in the international competition in recent years and a win against Japan will only increase their confidence to push on and prove they are contenders. Having beaten Wednesday’s opposition 42-17 as recently as 2013 at Murrayfield, Scotland will hope to make it four wins out of four in the home nation’s opening fixtures.
Scotland face Japan on Wednesday 23rd September as they open their campaign in Pool B.
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