England (18) 35
Tries: Penalty try, Brown 2, Vunipola
Conversions: Ford, Farrell 2
Penalties: Ford 2, Farrell
Fiji (8) 11
Penalties: Nadolo, Volavola
England made the perfect start to their Rugby World Cup campaign with a bonus point victory over Fiji at Twickenham. A penalty try and a Mike Brown double had the host nation heading for victory yet without a crucial fourth, but replacement Billy Vunipola went over from the final play to illuminate an at times uncertain display against their dogged Pacific Island opponents.
Having initially begun well through George Ford's penalty and a penalty try awarded by referee Jaco Peyper, Fiji staged a comeback through Nemani Nadolo's try. Missed opportunities from the floor however, as Nadolo and Ben Volavola spurned opportunities let England off the hook and a host of changes mid-way through the second half swung the game the way of Stuart Lancaster's side.
Having already struck in the first half, Brown successfully juggled the ball to score his second but England looked set to fall short in their attempts to secure a fourth try and a bonus point. But in a game dominated by referrals to the television match official, Billy Vunipola went over in the final minute in what could be a critical score come end of the pool stage. John McKee meanwhile will be optimistic his Fiji side can still cause a shock in this tournament, despite his side badly tiring during the closing minutes.
Despite being the opening game of the tournament, the difficulty of Pool A meant neither England nor Fiji could afford to start slowly knowing the challenges that stood ahead of them in the form of Australia and Wales. Nevertheless, a nervy and error-strewn start ensued with Ford kicking the opening points of the tournament following a penalty from the first scrum of the match.
Though England continued to give away penalties at the breakdown, with Volavola failing to take advantage, Fiji were equally as guilty and a tip tackle from Dominiko Waqaniburotu on Jonny May was punished with a penalty. The Brive flanker could have been more harshly reprimanded but from the resulting kick to the corner England had their first score as referee Peyper awarded a penalty try, with Nikola Matawalu being sin-binned.
Fiji continued to throw away decent possession with ill-discipline and after Api Ratuniyarawa was penalised for entering a ruck illegally, Ford kicked to the corner. From a subsequent attack England worked the ball swiftly through the hands, having won a Fiji line-out against the head, allowing Brown to finish in the corner.
The Pacific Islanders thought they had a foothold in a match where attacks had been few and far between, after the returning Matawalu skinned the England defence, but touched down only after losing the ball forward. But from the scrum on the England line Fiji turned the ball over and Nemani Nadolo out jumped Anthony Watson from a high cross-field kick to score.
Ford and Nadolo exchanged penalties as the half came to an end, with neither side yet to take a decisive grip on the game despite England possessing a 10-point lead. Nadolo missed the chance to cut the deficit seven minutes after the break as England continued to wilt amid the nerves of opening night.
Lancaster rung the changes in order to spark resurgence and perhaps expose the tiring Fijians and it paid dividends in the final 15 minutes. Brown first powered through, juggling the ball before touching down and though England looked likely to be kept from scoring a fourth try by a resolute Fiji, Vunipola touched down after mountains of pressure to strike a blow to Australia and Wales.
England: 15. Mike Brown; 14. Anthony Watson; 13. Jonathan Joseph; 12. Brad Barritt; 11. Jonny May; 10. George Ford; 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler; 2. Tom Youngs; 3. Dan Cole; 4. Courtney Lawes; 5. Geoff Parling; 6. Tom Wood; 7. Chris Robshaw; 8. Ben Morgan
Replacements: 16. Rob Webber; 17. Mako Vunipola; 18. Kieran Brookes; 19. Joe Launchbury; 20. Billy Vunipola; 21. Richard Wigglesworth; 22. Owen Farrell; 23. Sam Burgess
Fiji: 15. Metuisela Talebula; 14. Waisea Nayacalevu, 13. Vereniki Goneva, 12. Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11. Nemani Nadolo; 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Nikola Matawalu; 1. Campese Ma'afu, 2. Sunia Koto, 3. Manasa Saulo; 4. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 5. Leone Nakarawa; 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Akapusi Qera, 8. Sakiusa Masi Matadigo.
Replacements: 16. Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Isei Colati, 19. Tevita Cavubati, 20. Peceli Yato, 22. Nemia Kenatale, Joshua Matavesi, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.