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Fiji-born Cokanasiga scores debut Test try as second-half surge sees England overcome Japan

England were 15-10 down at half-time and a shock looked to be on the cards.

England's Joe Cokanasiga scores his side's third try of the match against Japan.
England's Joe Cokanasiga scores his side's third try of the match against Japan.
Image: Andrew Matthews

England 35

Japan 15

JOE COKANASIGA SCORED a try on his Test debut as England came from behind to beat 2019 World Cup hosts Japan at Twickenham on Saturday.

England were 15-10 down at half-time and a shock looked possible, but they scored 25 unanswered points after the break, including Cokanasiga’s try 10 minutes from time and another from Dylan Hartley in the 76th minute.

On a dry day ideal for their favoured, running game, Japan deservedly led at the interval.

England scrum-half Danny Care may have crossed for the first try of the match in just the third minute but Japan’s passing, led by their No 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, and handling was far sharper in the opening 40 minutes.

Their enterprising play was rewarded with tries by centre Ryoko Nakamura and captain Michael Leitch.

Meanwhile England again paid the price for repeated indiscipline, with hooker Jamie George sin-binned.

But England, with coach Eddie Jones making use of his bench, recovered to lead thanks to openside flanker Mark Wilson’s first Test try and the boot of George Ford, their captain for this match, before powering away in the closing stages.

England v Japan - Quilter International - Twickenham Stadium England's Joe Cokanasiga celebrates after scoring his try. Source: Andrew Matthews

Jones made 11 changes to the side that suffered an agonising 16-15 loss at home to world champions New Zealand last weekend, with Fiji-born Cokanasiga — who arrived in England aged just three — included.

Fly-half Ford led the team out on winning his 50th cap after he had been on the bench for a 12-11 win over South Africa and the narrow loss to the All Blacks.

This fixture was just the second Test between the two countries, with England having thrashed Japan 60-7 at the inaugural 1987 World Cup.

Jones was, however, Japan’s coach when they stunned South Africa 34-32 in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup in England.

Cokanasiga was quickly into the action as England went ahead. Full-back Elliot Daly ran back a loose Japan kick before releasing Cokanasiga.

He in turn found George on his inside, who delivered a scoring pass to Care.

Japan declined several kickable penalties before getting on the scoreboard, though, thanks to fly-half Yu Tamura’s long-range effort in the 16th minute.

Soon afterwards, England were a man down when George was yellow-carded for killing the ball.

From the ensuing scrum, Tanaka fired the ball to Nakamura, who went in under the posts after Alex Lozowski missed a tackle.

Tamura converted and Japan led 10-7 before, with Ashton joining the scrum, England won a penalty on the halfway line that saw long-range kick specialist Daly’s superb strike from 50 metres level the scores.

But Japan hit back after they caught England napping with a quick line-out.

The ball was worked back and across the field before finding its way to Leitch, standing in space out on the right.

The New Zealand-born flanker powered through tackles by replacement hooker Dylan Hartley and Care before side-stepping Daly for an excellent try. 

England v Japan - Quilter International - Twickenham Stadium England's Maro Itoje in action against Japan. Source: Andrew Matthews

Jones abandoned his experiment of playing Jack Nowell, usually a wing, at centre by taking off Ashton and bringing on Henry Slae, who went into midfield.

He made another change at half-time, taking off Lozwoski at half-time and bringing on regular co-captain Owen Farrell. 

A rare Japan infringement allowed Ford to kick a penalty that cut their lead to two points and England went ahead on the hour mark.

Powerful running by replacement prop Kyle Sinckler and flanker Maro Itoje paved the way for Ford to find Wilson with a clever inside pass for a converted try.

England then put the result beyond doubt when replacement scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, following his own clever box kick, released Cokanasiga who then shrugged off two tackles on the way to a try before Hartley finished off a driving maul.

England complete their 2018 programme at home to Australia on 24 November when Japan play Russia in Gloucester, southwest England, in a dress rehearsal for the opening game of next year’s World Cup.

 © AFP 2018  

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