Porter and Smith power England’s seven-try return to form against Japan

Eddie Jones so nearly got his wish. For it was not until the late stages of this emphatic victory that a few Mexican waves began to ripple around the Twickenham stands. By that stage England had long since put a disappointing Japan side to the sword and demonstrated a dominance to both kickstart their autumn campaign and look forward to the sterner tests that await with relish.

England were true to their word, slipped the straitjackets and played with more freedom of expression than six days previous against Argentina. Jones had promised that the focus in the buildup was all about this fixture rather than the World Cup – perhaps he is on to something – and a performance that would keep the Mexican waves at bay. That England almost achieved it aptly sums up their afternoon – not perfect, but significantly more polished.

England set about their task with an intensity that Japan could not live with. They ran in seven tries, injected the pace that the selections of Jack van Poortvliet, Sam Simmonds and Jonny May suggested they would and ruled the skies to ensure Japan could feed off only scraps. They were far more disciplined, too, giving away just six penalties but the frustration is that it takes a defeat to bring about this sort of response from England and it must also be said that this is a fixture Jones’ side could never countenance losing, however much Japan have kicked on since they were last here four years ago. The All Blacks, due next Saturday, will be a different proposition, so too South Africa seven days later so call this a launchpad from which England head into those fixtures.

As was the case when England last took to the field after a defeat, it was Ellis Genge who set the tone. He may have given a penalty away for being offside, overeager, but he won three at the scrum early on and where he leads, England follow. Japan could not escape the suffocating net that was England’s defence, there was a hurriedness rather than a fluidity to their handling, and Genge and co continued to turn the screw. Again England had plenty of the ball but this week there was more conviction to what they did with it. Van Poortvliet served Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell with quick ball and both were willing to use it rather than kick it away.

England managed three first-half tries, the first a clever strike move finished by Freddie Steward. England’s maul was going sideways but Van Poortvliet sparked a move through the hands of Farrell and Smith and on to Steward, who evaded Kotaro Matsushima to dash over in the corner. Farrell added a penalty and in an illustration of England’s intent, he could be heard asking the referee Jamie Doleman if they could play advantage on the back of their scrum dominance.

Steward then turned provider with a mazy run from deep before offloading to Van Poortvliet who fed Joe Cokanasiga, a late replacement for the injured Jack Nowell. He was shackled by Takuya Yamasawa but had the wherewithal to pop the ball up for Smith to score in the corner. Guy Porter added a third after Simmonds put his first England try on a plate just before the interval – the home side taking May’s yellow card in their stride. May had been sent to the sin-bin after a rare counterattack from Japan, led by Michael Leitch and continued by the impressive Dylan Riley with the England wing having to scramble – illegal in the eyes of Doleman. Japan opted to kick at goal, as they had done a few minutes earlier when well-placed, seemingly a tacit acknowledgement of England’s defensive might.

Genge added the try his performance deserved soon after the restart by battering his way to the line after concerted England pressure and Porter had his second by showing a deceptive turn of pace to collect Farrell’s left-footed grubber with one-handed passes from the two locks, Jonny Hill and David Ribbans, in the buildup.

Just as England were looking a touch too comfortable, Warner Dearns broke free from a ruck and teed up Naoto Saito for Japan’s only try before a flurry of replacements took the sting out of the match. A penalty try for England – for which Siosaia Fifita was sent to the sin-bin – and another for Smith put the gloss on the scoreline, Farrell adding the conversion to complete a flawless match from the tee.