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England close on quarter-finals with 34-12 win over Japan

NICE, France: A bizarre second-half try helped England overcome a ragged first half and eventually overwhelm Japan 34-12 on Sunday (Sep 17), earning themselves a bonus-point victory and planting one foot firmly in the World Cup quarter-finals.

With the game poised at 13-12, England captain Courtney Lawes cantered in for a try as the Japanese players stopped and watched, expecting to hear the referee’s whistle for a knock-on after the ball had deflected off the head of prop Joe Marler.

That turned the tide as England ran in four tries in all with Lewis Ludlam, Freddie Steward and Joe Marchant also on the scoresheet and George Ford again superb off the tee.

For the first 50 minutes though England had looked devoid of ideas, routinely kicking away possession, making way too many errors and some inexplicable decisions, and they were even booed by their own fans at one point.

They finished strongly, however, and top the Pool D standings with nine points. Japan and Samoa have five, with Argentina and Chile pointless.

England face Chile next weekend then have a two-week break before their final game against Samoa with a quarter-final against either Wales, Fiji or Australia looming.

"We are just really happy with another win tonight," said Ford. "We knew it was going to be tough and Japan challenge you in different ways. We knew it would be that third or fourth quarter we could pull away a bit.

"It was probably not the prettiest watching it. It's really hard to play with the ball in these conditions. These late kick-offs are dead greasy but we got there in the end."

Japan had won only one of their last nine games coming into the World Cup over 15 months but, buoyed by their opening win over Chile, in the first half they looked to have