England 35-15 Japan: Relieved England see off Brave Blossoms
Last Updated: 18/11/18 10:19am
Japan lived up to their nickname with an impressive display, but the Brave Blossoms ultimately fell to a 35-15 defeat to a relieved England.
After England's excellent effort against New Zealand last weekend, Japan were not supposed to challenge at Twickenham, but they produced a performance similar to the one that stunned South Africa in the 2015 World Cup.
That day it was Eddie Jones who masterminded the win over the Boks, and it was this legacy that almost came back to haunt him.
Japan went into the break 15-10 ahead after tries from Ryoto Nakamura and Michael Leitch, plus a penalty and conversion from the boot of Yu Tamura, but Mark Wilson, Joe Cokanasiga and Dylan Hartley scored late in the second half to give England the win.
It was a bright start for England as Danny Care scored after just three minutes, but the rest of the half belonged to Japan who showed all the invention - from smart offloads to cheeky kicks behind England's defence.
England seemed stunned that Japan did not roll over after that early try and were guilty of poor discipline that resulted in a yellow card for hooker Jamie George after a succession of penalties.
Japan showed their intent to play as they spurned two shots at goal in favour of a lineout, but, despite promising mauls, they could not get over the line.
Tamura knocked over his penalty to make it 7-3 in the 17th minute and centre Nakamura went over four minutes later from a five-metre scrum, with Tamura's conversion giving Japan a well-deserved 10-7 lead.
Elliot Daly made it all square seven minutes later with a massive penalty from the halfway line, but Japan were soon back on attack in the England 22.
It was the visitors playing with all the pace and intent and they were rewarded with their second try when skipper Leitch broke through some poor tackles from Care, Harry Williams and Hartley to score. Tamura could not add the extras but Japan were 15-10 up as George, who had been replaced by Hartley during his absence, returned to the fray.
Japan were hunting their third try as the first half ran down but they lost the ball, giving England a perfect chance to counter and get Twickenham back on side. However, Care opted to kick it out and, after a furious looking huddle on the pitch, the hosts went down the tunnel five points adrift.
The arrival of Owen Farrell and Hartley gave England a direction they seemed to be missing in the first half and slowly they clawed their way back into the game. George Ford narrowed the scores with a penalty before England took the lead in the 59th minute when Mark Wilson went over after strong carries from Courtney Lawes and Jack Nowell to make it 20-15.
Another Ford penalty took them eight points clear before Cokanasiga scored his first try for England after Japan failed to deal with a box-kick, and good work from George and Richard Wigglesworth saw the Bath man go over.
England finished off with a try for Hartley after a lineout drive and, despite Ford missing the conversion, the 35-15 final score will not gloss over an under-whelming performance from England.