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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
England 28-10 USA
By James Standley

Jason Robinson feels the full force of Paul Emerick's defence
The US produced a hugely committed display in Lens
England (21) 28
Tries: Robinson, Barkley, Rees
Cons: Barkley 2
Pens: Barkley 3

USA (3) 10
Tries: Moeakiola
Cons: Hercus
Pens: Hercus

England started their World Cup defence with a hugely disappointing victory over a willing but limited USA side.

The score was just 3-3 after 20 minutes before two Olly Barkley penalties edged England 9-3 clear in Lens on Saturday.

Jason Robinson and Barkley added tries late in the first half to help them into a 21-3 lead at the break.

Tom Rees scored their third try after 48 minutes but England could not lift their game and the USA had the final word through Matekitonga Moeakiola.

England may have gone into the match as defending champions but the current side is a pale shadow of the World Cup-winning team and, on this display, their chances of repeating the 2003 victory look remote to say the least.

The build-up to their title defence was progressing so badly under Andy Robinson that he was replaced as coach by Brian Ashton in December.

RWC BLOG

Despite Ashton's reputation as a rugby visionary, his side struggled to play with any width during their three warm-up games and they continued to look desperately short of pace and skill against the USA.

They started very slowly and although Barkley made a couple of good breaks an early exchange of penalties by the England fly-half and opposite number Mike Hercus meant the score was only 3-3 after the first quarter.

And the world champions nearly conceded the first try when Hercus read a forced pass and intercepted beautifully, but his inside pass to Paul Emerick saw the Dragons centre halted by a blatant trip by England captain Phil Vickery.

England finally edged back in front when Barkley, in for the injured Jonny Wilkinson, kicked a penalty after hands in the ruck by the USA after 22 minutes.

And when centre Vahafolau Esikia infringed in exactly the same way just after the half hour mark he was yellow carded and Barkley made it 9-3 to England.

It took a break from Josh Lewsey to finally open the Eagles up and when England recycled the ball Mike Catt's pin-point kick floated into the hands of Robinson, who crossed untouched.

It was hardly as momentous as the former Great Britain rugby league winger's try for England in the 2003 final.

But his broad smile showed just how pleased England were to have finally crossed an opponents' line for the first time in 176 minutes of action.

They did not have long to wait for their second score as another break from the hard-running Lewsey and a superb delayed pass from Ben Kay put Barkley over for a fine try.

England fly-half Olly Barkley is upended by USA centre Paul Emerick
Paul Emerick was yellow carded for this tackle on Olly Barkley

The Bath fly-half had been one of the few England players to impress in the first 40 minutes and he slotted the conversion to make it 21-3 at the break.

Their third try came after 48 minutes when 22-year-old Wasps open-side flanker Rees, the youngest man in the starting XV, took a quick tap penalty five metres out and powered over.

Barkley added the conversion to make it 28-3 but not only was the try not a signal that the floodgates were about to open, it was to be England's final score of the match.

Their continued inability to move the ball wide with any conviction was all too apparent and a series of lost line-outs and knock-ons prevented them developing any momentum.

So poorly were England playing that the USA actually took control of the final stages and the Eagles, who only have a handful of professionals, scored a deserved try through giant replacement prop Moeakiola.

Former Sale, Scarlets and Dragons fly-half Hercus landed the conversion to make it 28-10.

England ended the match with only 14 men after Lawrence Dallaglio was sent to the sin bin after infringing during the build-up to the try.

And the floundering world champions' failure to secure a bonus point for scoring four or more tries could prove costly.

The match ended on a sour note as Emerick was yellow carded for a spear tackle on Barkley, England's stand-out player, but the incident should not detract from a brave USA performance.

England's next encounter is with group favourites South Africa on Friday in Paris.

The world champions have plastered their dressing rooms with the letters STW - standing for Shock the World - but at the moment it would be a shock if they manage to provide the Springboks with even a half decent contest.


England: Cueto; Lewsey, Noon, Catt, Robinson; Barkley, Perry; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery, Shaw, Kay, Worsley, Rees, Dallaglio.
Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Corry, Moody, Richards, Farrell, Tait.

USA: Wyles; Sika, Emerick, Esikia, Ngwenya; Hercus (capt), Erskine; MacDonald, Lentz, Osentowski, Parker, Mangan, Stanfill, Clever, Bloomfield.
Replacements: Burdette, Moeakiloa, tbc, Basauri, Petri, Malifa, Tuipulotu.



SEE ALSO
Rees urges England to raise game
09 Sep 07 |  English
Rugby World Cup photos
08 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union
England v USA as it happened
08 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union


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