Read a full match report of the Rugby League World Cup game between England and Fiji at the KC Stadium, Hull, on Saturday Nov 9, 2013.
Sixteen minutes of pure devastation, with 28 unanswered points, finally announced England as genuine World Cup contenders in their final group game against Fiji in Hull.
Off-field problems have dogged England’s camp for the opening two weeks of the tournament and there was little to judge just how good they can be on the pitch from their opening day defeat by Australia and last week’s cruise past whipping boys Ireland.
Make no mistake, though, England proved against the Bati that they have the steely defence, ruthless attack and, probably just as important, the patience to kill off opponents.
The Fijians, semi-finalists like England in the 2008 World Cup, frustrated the life out of England with their terrific scrambling defence in the first half and one could almost feel the nerves jangling on the England bench when Fiji took the lead in the 33rd minute.
It was born out of a piece of inspiration minutes earlier when Ashton Sims denied Sam Burgess an opening try with a lunging pinpoint tackle.
It came with such force that the giant prop could not help but lose the ball from his grasp as he tried to ground it.
The try-saver visibly lifted Fiji after weathering 20 minutes of pressure, with much of it on their own line, and they thought they had taken the lead three minutes later.
England full back Sam Tomkins made a hash of collecting a grubber kick but then got a fortunate let-off when the video referee Shayne Hayne disallowed Daryl Millard’s try, ruling that Tomkins was tackled without the ball.
But Fiji had the bit between their teeth and substitute Eloni Vunakece gave them the lead with a well deserved try, following good work by Millard and Tariq Sims, with Wes Naiqama adding the conversion.
The big question was how would England respond to the setback in front of a sell-out crowd at Hull’s KC Stadium?
The answer was swift and emphatic and will do much for England’s confidence going into next Saturday’s quarter final, against either France or Samoa, at Wigan.
Two minutes before half time, captain Kevin Sinfield produced first a fine dummy then a smart pass to send in Ben Westwood, Sinfield converting, to give them vital parity at half-time.
But if the Fijians believed they still had England rattled, they were badly mistaken as the home side came out for the restart with all guns blazing, rattling up a truly impressive five tries in the next 16 minutes to kill the game off.
Sam Burgess led by example with a bludgeoning run past four tacklers to get the opening try within 24 seconds of the restart after England won back possession from the kick-off.
Rangi Chase, who finally looks to be proving he deserves the No 6 shirt, then produced a delayed pass to create a try for Brett Ferres and minutes later found Ryan Hall on the wing for another try.
The effort was initially disallowed, with a touch judge believing he had put a foot the wrong side of the line, but the video referee rightly decided the Leeds winger had done superbly to keep his balance while having the strength to touch down.
Rob Burrow, who later went off injured with a head injury, darted over for another try and England’s record try-scorer Hall grabbed his second, and 19th in 18 England games, to put them 34-6 ahead.
Fiji, who also qualify for the last eight, responded with a late consolation try from winger Semi Radradra.
A relieved England coach Steve McNamara said: “Anyone who thought we would walk all over this team needed to think again. This game was exactly what we needed and bodes well for us for the quarter-finals.
“We went a bit sideways in the first half and we needed to fix that up and we were more direct in the second half. I think we did that tremendously well, but I am little bit frustrated with the way we finished.”
Man of the match Burgess added: “We probably did not play to our standards in the first half but we are proud of the way we put our foot down at the start of the second half and carried it on.
"At half time we were told to stay patient and we came out a lot smarter.”
England duo Burrow and Michael McIlorum, who both made their debuts in the tournament, did enough to give McNamara a selection problem next week. Winger Briscoe also will be hard done by if he loses his shirt to Josh Charnley.
It would seem McNamara has some headaches of the welcome kind for a change.
England: Tomkins, Briscoe, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall; Chase, Sinfield; S Burgess, McIlorum, Graham, Ferres, Westwood, O’Loughlin.
Replacements Burrow, Farrell, Hill, G Burgess.
Tries Hall (2), Westwood, Sam Burgess, Ferres, Burrow.
Goals Sinfield (5).
Fiji: K Naiqama, Koroibete, D Millard, W Naiqama, Semi; R Millard, Groom; A Sims, Storer, Civoniceva, Bukuya, T Sims, K Sims.
Replacements Vunakece, Botiki, Roquic, Evans.
Tries Vunakece, Radradra.
Goals Naiqama (2).