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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

England's 'finishers' make the difference as Japan fall short at Twickenham

England score 20 unanswered second-half points to prevail 35-10 while Dan Biggar-inspired Wales rout Tonga

Wing Joe Cokanasiga scores England's third try against Japan at Twickenham as the hosts ran out 35-15 winners. Reuters
Wing Joe Cokanasiga scores England's third try against Japan at Twickenham as the hosts ran out 35-15 winners. Reuters

England overcame a disastrous first half when their experimental side trailed an effervescent Japan 15-10 to turn on the power after the break and run out 35-15 winners at Twickenham on Saturday.

Underdogs Japan had threatened a repeat of their 2015 World Cup upset over South Africa when well-made tries for Ryoto Nakamura and Michael Leitch rewarded some terrific play and a dominant 40 minutes after England had struck first through Danny Care.

Eddie Jones sent on most of his big-gun replacements in the second half and, lifted by the arrival of Owen Farrell, they made the difference as a Mark Wilson try and the boot of George Ford brought some normality to the scoreboard at 23-15 after 65 minutes.

Winger Joe Cokanasiga then marked his debut with a try and Dylan Hartley, for the second week running, was carried over by a rolling maul to give some polish to the scoreboard.

"It was obviously very disappointing in the first half, our attitude wasn't quite there. That's not good when you're playing for England," said fly-half George Ford, who contributed 12 points with the boot.

"The finishers made a massive difference, they're there to come on and give energy to the game, they swung the game our way.

"It was disappointing that it had to come to that, but that's what the squad is for."

Japan, who host next year's World Cup, were given a standing ovation as the players left the pitch for their part in an enthralling game that had England reeling in the first 40 minutes.

"It was a big experience for us and its exactly what we need as we get into the World Cup next year," said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

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Dan Biggar guided Wales to their eighth consecutive victory as a much-changed side scored 10 tries in a comprehensive 74-24 thrashing of Tonga.

Tonga battered their way back from a 24-3 deficit to draw level early in the second half at Cardiff's Principality Stadium.

But the floodgates opened as the Welsh, with a host of World Cup hopefuls playing, ran in 50 unanswered points against a flagging defence.

"Reasonably happy, we started the game well and dug in and brought it back," said fly-half Biggar, who scored 19 points.

"We just did the basics pretty well, even though we scored some really good tries. Against any team you have to do that well."

An early penalty try was followed by touchdowns for Dan Biggar and wing Liam Williams on his 50th Wales appearance.

But Tonga, beaten on all eight previous encounters against Wales, responded impressively through tries for locks Leva Fifita and Steve Mafi, before Saracens No 8 Sione Vailanu powered over from close range.

Newcastle scrum-half Sonatane Takulua converted all three tries and kicked a penalty, but Wales pulled away during the final 30 minutes.

The hosts added tries from wing Steff Evans, scrum-half Tomos Williams, another from Liam Williams, centre Tyler Morgan, plus replacements Cory Hill, Aled Davies and Rhys Patchell, while Patchell kicked four conversions.

Wales captain Ellis Jenkins said sights had turned immediately on South Africa, who travel to Cardiff next week.

"We want to win every game, so hopefully we can go on and complete the clean sweep now," Jenkins told the BBC, the Welsh having opened their autumn series with a 21-10 victory over Scotland.

Fijian wing Marika Koroibete scored two tries as Australia beat Italy 26-7 in Padua on Saturday to relieve the pressure on under-fire coach Michael Cheika.

Koroibete crossed twice in the first half, with Taniela Tupou and Will Genia adding two more after the break to get the Wallabies back to winning ways after last weekend's defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

Italy play world champions New Zealand in Rome on November 24, with Australia taking on England the same day at Twickenham.