LONDON (AP) — England accounted for the United States 43-29 at Twickenham on Sunday with a messy finish after a brilliant start.
England had the expected win in hand after 30 minutes when it led 26-3, but the Eagles, in their first test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, improved quickly, and outscored the home side 26-17 in an entertaining second half featuring skimpy defense.
With 12 away with the British and Irish Lions, England debuted 12 — its most in one match since 1947 — and eight of them started. They produced seven tries.
“We have got to be pleased with how they went,” coach Eddie Jones said. “It was one of those games that tend to open up. As we got loose they got stronger. Full credit to USA.”
Jones wanted his side to click from the first minute. They clicked from the seventh. New flyhalf Marcus Smith kicked to touch, Max Malins impressively caught it, and flanker Sam Underhill charged up the inside to score. In the act, Malins injured his shoulder and left.
New fullback Freddie Steward then drew the defense and freed Ollie Lawrence, who dragged U.S. wing Mikey Te’o to the tryline.
A tap penalty by new scrumhalf Harry Randall, and Steward’s chip out of heavy traffic gave Joe Cokanasiga an easy try, and minutes later the wing burst into a gap from a Smith pass and scored 40 meters later for 26-3.
Cokanasiga also scored two tries against the U.S. at the World Cup, his last test before he was sidelined for a year by a knee injury. He has a pair in his last three starts.
The romp was on. But England’s fire cooled after a collision of heads that forced Lawrence and U.S. fullback Marcel Brache to walk off before halftime.
England had only two reserve backs, and both had to play out of position: Scrumhalf Dan Robson moved to the wing, and flyhalf Jacob Umaga, the nephew of New Zealand great Tana, was in the centers.
Brache was wearing 15 after the late withdrawal of an injured Will Hooley. Christian Dyer, who tried to make the Olympic sevens team, became the sixth American new cap.
The U.S. opened the new half by exposing an England weakness, the maul, as flanker Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz was driven over.
New England hooker Jamie Blamire and U.S. No. 8 Cam Dolan then went tit for tat with chargedown tries.
England led 31-13 amid the disruption of both benches being cleared when tyro halves Randall and Smith struck to make it a much safer 43-15 with 10 minutes to go.
Randall broke from a scrum and popped up for Smith to score, and moments later Randall dummied three Americans and broke clear from the U.S. 22 to score.
Smith was man of the match on debut. On Jones’ radar since 2015 when he was a schoolboy, he adapted his impressive club form to test rugby a week after leading Harlequins to the English title on the same ground.
The U.S. completed its first match against England at Twickenham in 22 years with tries to Hanco Germishuys and Dyer. They scored four tries against a tier one team for the first time since 2004 when they posted five against France.
“Things could have gone belly up, especially at halftime,” U.S. coach Gary Gold said. “But I thought the bench brought a huge amount of energy.
“The other thing I’m very encouraged about is that it showed the world that Major League Rugby is going in the right direction. And it’s helping us to be able to prepare our players in a better way.”
New flyhalf Luke Carty, the younger brother of Ireland World Cup flyhalf Jack, added four goalkicks from five attempts. The former Ireland Under-20 cap will be hoping to play the Ireland test next weekend.
England will be welcoming Canada.
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