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Marcus Smith shines as England punish Japan

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Marcus Smith shines as England punish Japan

Marcus Smith shone as England inflicted a crushing defeat on their former head coach Eddie Jones to give their summer tour lift off in Tokyo’s National Stadium.

Japan were overwhelmed 52-17 in their first match since Jones was placed back in charge, with England amassing eight tries until the strike rate dried up in the face of a final-quarter surge from the hosts.

A pleasing performance saw Steve Borthwick’s men pick-up where they left off in the Six Nations by playing smart and ambitious rugby that was well executed, particularly close to the whitewash.

Smith was at the heart of the enterprise shown, justifying his selection ahead of Fin Smith by orchestrating play intelligently until he was replaced having been shown a yellow card in the 55th minute.

Tougher challenges lie ahead on tour in the form of two Tests against New Zealand, who will give Smith far less room to work his magic than an accommodating Japan defence, but the Harlequins fly-half pointed to a future that does not include George Ford and Owen Farrell.

Borthwick will have taken satisfaction from winning his personal duel with Jones, his former boss with England and Japan, but the match ended on a sour note when Charlie Ewels’ yellow card for a dangerous clear out was upgraded to red.

Ewels became the nation’s first player to be sent off twice following his dismissal in his last international against Ireland two years ago.

There was early evidence of the humidity that England had trained for as the ball squirted out of the hands of both sides, but Japan made the faster start that was rewarded with a penalty from fly-half Seungsin Lee.

The tourists’ first meaningful attack produced a try, however, as a series of pick and goes underlined the greater carrying power of their forwards until the excellent Chandler Cunningham-South muscled over with help from Ben Earl.

A slick line-out move that saw Jamie George find Ollie Lawrence with a long throw ended when Smith ghosted through the midfield to score and the Harlequin then turned provider with a long pass for Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

Smith was at the heart of England’s growing control of the game, also catching the eye with a 50-22, and pleasingly for Borthwick every visit to the 22 saw their lead increase.

His vision sent a leaping Henry Slade over via a crossfield kick in another clinical finish and the second half was only two minutes old when Alex Mitchell exploited a gap around the ruck to glide over.

Japan launched a rare attack that was foiled by a Sam Underhill turnover and the home defence was then back in grave peril as Smith pinned them back with a kick that was followed by Feyi-Waboso and Dan Cole going close.

Earl succeeded soon after, helped by an offload from Mitchell who sucked in two tacklers, but England then had to regroup when Smith was sent to the sin-bin for an early tackle on Yoshitaka Yazaki.

Despite being a man down, scrum-half Harry Randall darted over with ease and he was joined off the bench by Tom Curry, who was making his first Test appearance since the World Cup because of hip surgery.

The replacements streamed off England’s bench and Japan took advantage of the comings and goings to run in classy tries through Koga Nezuka and Samisoni Tua.

But there was one last try for Underhill as England finished with 14 men, Ewels taking Michael Leitch out low resulting in a yellow and then red card.

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