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England make semis after battling past Fiji in World Cup thriller

By PA
Manu Tuilagi of England celebrates scoring his team's first try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between England and Fiji at Stade Velodrome on October 15, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Owen Farrell steered England into the semi-finals of the World Cup after Steve Borthwick’s side faced down a Fiji fightback in a dramatic 30-24 victory in Marseille.

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England appeared to be cruising into the next round when they led 24-10 heading into the final quarter thanks to tries by Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant and Farrell’s pinpoint kicking at Stade Velodrome.

But their foundations shook when Peni Ravai went over in the 65th minute and a nerve-jangling finish beckoned as Vilimoni Botitu crossed to level the score soon after.

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Farrell landed a drop-goal to usher in the unbearably tense closing minutes and with Fiji throwing the kitchen sink at them, they picked off a loose pass and sped downfield through Joe Marchant.

Farrell landed his fifth penalty and despite one final assault from the Islanders, the white wall held firm to secure a semi-final against either France or South Africa.

England are the only home union side to reach the last four following the demise of Wales and Ireland in this weekend’s quarter-finals but they rode their luck at times during a frenzied second half having played smart rugby before the interval.

Match Summary

5
Penalty Goals
1
2
Tries
3
1
Conversions
3
1
Drop Goals
0
95
Carries
133
3
Line Breaks
8
12
Turnovers Lost
14
5
Turnovers Won
7

The result avenged their first ever loss to Fiji in August and by reaching the penultimate stage of the World Cup they have surpassed expectations given they entered the tournament on the back of five defeats in six Tests.

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There was no sign of the fireworks to come as England surged ahead, capitalising on their opponents’ indiscipline to score three points through Farrell before a second penalty produced a line-out drive that ended with Tuilagi diving over in the left corner.

Roared on by fans, Marcus Smith ran from deep but was swallowed up by the Islanders and the drama continued with Maro Itoje intercepting and racing into space before Tom Curry made a dangerously low tackle on Josua Tuisova.

Curry’s offence allowed Frank Lomani to kick three points but England replied with waves of attacks and their tempo stretched Fiji’s defence, allowing Marchant to jink over.

Fiji wing Vinaya Habosi was sent to the sin-bin for a high hit on Smith, who departed for an HIA, but his side were the next over in a breathless first half when Viliame Mata scooped up a loose ball, dummied and strolled over.

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Itoje and Courtney Lawes were battered as the Islanders made their presence felt in defence but England continued to force penalties that allowed Farrell to land six more points.

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Fiji infringed freely as their opponents racked up time in possession, but two wayward Farrell kicks after he had fired a smart chip into space provided a route out of difficulty and they started moving the ball with menace until Lawes turned them over.

The second half was more ragged and England’s play was frantic at times, lacking the control evident earlier, but the scoreboard kept ticking over as Farrell extended their lead to14 points.

Fiji lost the ball time and again, preventing them from building any momentum, but they faced a muscular defence.

Finally they broke through, Ravai concluding a sustained assault and when the conversion was added, the deficit was down to a converted try.

The tide had turned and when a Simione Kuruvoli penalty struck the upright, it fell to Fiji and they pounded away at the favourites until Isoa Nasilasila forced a gap and Botitu touched down.

Points Flow Chart

England win +6
Time in lead
75
Mins in lead
0
87%
% Of Game In Lead
0%
3%
Possession Last 10 min
97%
6
Points Last 10 min
0

Farrell replied with his drop-goal and when Marchant broke clear to relieve the pressure of a Fiji attack, sprinting 60 metres downfield, a penalty was forced that Farrell rifled over.

The Islander fell short with one final attack and when the final whistle sounded they collapsed to the floor in disappointment.

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Comments

8 Comments
J
Jon 274 days ago

Interesting to reflect on comments talking about the “pool of minnows” that England and Argentina were supposedly playing in. That both the winners and runners up have progressed to the semi finals. They must be very big minnows.

B
Bob Marler 274 days ago

Well played Fiji.

On the upside, much more satisfying smashing England at the World Cup anyway.

J
John 274 days ago

No other Referee I pay tribute to but the one and only..NIGEL OWENS..Just the perfect person for the Job..Always fair and always understanding and a true son of WALES..I take my hat off for you any day Sir..

J
John 274 days ago

Just to be realistic..No England or France will win the World Cup..So my rugby lovers..it’s going to be an all Southern Final..All Blacks vs South Africa..Hahahahahaha..English and French referees have no Honor..full of racism..that’s a FACT..SORRY BUT ITS TRUE..

J
John 274 days ago

I hope yous win the world cup..favoring CUP

J
John 274 days ago

Northern Hermisphere referring is just as pathetic as there TMO,s…trying to favor there Northerners all the time…all I can say is thanks to ENGLANDs 16th man..The Referee..Just too Bias …

T
Trevor 274 days ago

A labored, cumbersome performance by England, against a weak Fiji, and with assistance from the ref. Not much hope for a successful outcome in the semis.

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B.J. Spratt 3 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

You Poms and Paddies are really nice guys. New Zealand V Ireland - 37 Tests - N.Z. 31 Wins - Ireland 5 Wins - 1 draw. New Zealand V England - 45 Tests - N.Z. 35 Wins -England 8 Wins - 2 draws. Combined - You have beaten the All Blacks 13 Times in 82 attempts over 119 years. The Stats over 100 years + would say, especially England with 6 Times the player pool than New Zealand, you have “a limitation of context” regarding developing your coaches to teach your players how to WIN. So how can England with a 6 times the player numbers have a 17% winning strike rate against New Zealand? and be 8 -0 in Test Series over 100 years. The answer is simple. Your perception of the game. How do you fix it? You need to play in New Zealand for a couple of seasons in your teens, 18 -20 or send coaches over here. Martin Johnstone played 2 seasons here under the mentorship of Colin Meads. When he came here he had rugby shorts with pockets and a handkerchief in one pocket. He played for NZ Under 21 against Wallaby John Eales. He became the toughest player in the game and the best ever English Captain and Captained the Lions twice. Legend! Maybe if he hadn’t come to New Zealand, he may still had those rugby shorts with pockets. Recently Rogan O’Gara spent time at the Crusaders. What a great coach. “Our “mindset is different” and that’s how we have beaten you for 100 years + How the hell he isn’t Coaching Ireland, France, England, Wales, or Scotland I will never know? England has 131,000 Senior rugby Players. Ireland has 21,000 Senior Players. New Zealand has 27,000 Senior Players.

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