SPORTS

England's backs start firing at Rugby World Cup for a 41-10 win over competitive Georgia

09/18/2011 05:45 EDT | Updated 11/18/2011 05:12 EST
DUNEDIN, New Zealand - England's backline started firing at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday to touch down six times, putting the gloss on a 41-10 win over a rugged Georgia side in Dunedin.

Shontayne Hape touched down twice in the first 20 minutes before Delon Armitage, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton — the latter scoring twice — made the score comfortable in the second half.

"We wanted to play some rugby today, play with some tempo," England captain Lewis Moody said. "We sort of did. We sort of didn't at times. We've got some things to work on. But six tries today? Fair enough."

But while England produced more running rugby than in last week's 13-9 win over Argentina, Georgia wrung more mistakes and another yellow card from a side that had been heavily penalized against the Pumas.

Georgia could even have led at halftime.

Irakli Machkhaneli had an early try disallowed when he put a foot in touch while touching down and Merab Kvirikashvili missed five penalties, three of them in the first half. Dimitri Basilaia scored Georgia's only try just before halftime.

As they did against the Pumas, the English conceded a string of penalties at the breakdown and scrum, with Dylan Hartley sent to the sin bin just before halftime for using his hands in the ruck despite repeated warnings to the team from referee Jonathan Kaplan.

"We made it hard for ourselves," Moody said of the 14 penalties conceded. "We gave away a lot of penalties and made a lot of mistakes at the breakdown.

"Fair play to Georgia, I thought they played a fantastic game. They were physical, as we knew they would be. They've come a long way since we played them in 2003, so credit to them."

But missed chances, missed kicks and missed tackles all cost the improving Georgians, who lost 84-6 to England in 2003, came close to beating Ireland four years ago and only lost their opener this year 15-6 to Scotland.

"We have played against one of the great teams of the tournament, one of the favourites," Georgia lock Ilia Zedginidze said. "You can see the difference between our teams on the scoreboard. I think we need much more practice and many more games like this to perform better."

England broke the defensive line regularly — more often perhaps than in any match since beating Australia almost a year ago — and, once through, the pace and power of the backs was telling.

Georgia enjoyed 75 per cent territory and 56 per cent possession in the first half, forcing England into 61 tackles to Georgia's 44. But the crucial first-half stats were Kvirikashvili's missed kicks and six missed Georgian tackles to just one by England.

Hape, starting at inside centre as replacement for Mike Tindall, picked up off the base of a ruck after Dimitri Basilaia had knocked on from a high ball 40 metres from the line. Hape ran through a gaping defence to score under the posts.

Flood converted and then made a crucial break to offload to Ashton. The wing was hauled down just short of the line, but England recycled possession quickly and Hape was on hand to touch down again.

Flood's conversion made it 14-0 but it could have been very different had Ashton not made a try-saving tackle on Machkhaneli moments after Hape's first score. The challenge pushed the wing's left foot into touch just before he touched down.

A week after Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Rodriguez and Felipe Contepomi missed 11 of 17 kicks under the roof at Otago Stadium, Kvirikashvili struggled with the boot until he got Georgia's first points in the 28th.

Georgia only got the points their territory and possession merited with England down to 14 men. No. 8 Basilaia picked up from the base of a scrum and barged over next to the posts amid three tacklers.

Kvirikashvili converted to make it 17-10 at the interval, but any danger of England folding was over when Armitage, again filling in at wing for the injured Mark Cueto, touched down from a flowing move with Hartley still off the field.

Ben Youngs, whose return at scrumhalf after last week's try-scoring cameo, injected more pace into the game and his sparkling break from deep culminated in an offload to Tuilagi. The Samoan-born centre charged in from outside the 22 for his third try in four internationals.

Flanker Tom Wood beat a couple of tired challenges and passed to Chris Ashton, who sprinted half the field to finish with one of his trademark dives. The former rugby league winger then rounded off the scoring in the right corner with the last move of the match, taking his tally to 11 tries in 15 matches.

Georgia missed a total 20 tackles as England's superior fitness and experience showed.

England's Matt Stevens, who replaced the injured Andrew Sheridan at loosehead, and Ashton both departed with injuries but Johnson said both should be fine.

"It's just a bit sore," Ashton said of his arm. "It got pushed the other way and will be bruised for a few days but I think it'll be fine."

MORE:cpSports