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Saxons power way to a place in final.


ENGLAND Saxons secured a place in the Churchill Cup final as their scrum power yielded three penalty tries in a comfortable 41-14 victory over Tonga in miserable conditions at Kingsholm.

The Saxons had demolished the United States in their tournament opener and they were rarely troubled here with Saracens prop Matt Stevens staking his claim for a World Cup place with a terrific display in both tight and loose play in front of England boss Martin Johnson.

The first two penalty tries and a score from captain Jordan Crane had helped the Saxons to a 24-0 half-time lead, and a further penalty try plus a five-pointer from Billy Twelvetrees put a seal on a win that sets up a meeting with Canada at Sixways on Saturday.

Fly-half Rory Clegg kicked seven from seven for a personal haul of 16 points, while Sione Timani and Pepa Koloamatangi went over for Tonga.

The Saxons started well with London Irish winger Topsy Ojo making two purposeful thrusts down the left flank early on with home favourite Charlie Sharples just failing to take his pass from the second of those bursts.

But the first try came from a more direct route as the Saxons front row of Matt Mullan, David Paice and Stevens simply destroyed their opponents from a five-metre scrum, and referee Romain Poite did not hesitate to award a penalty try converted by Clegg.

The second try soon arrived as Clegg and then Ojo were held up short before Crane, stepping in for the injured Luke Narraway, surged over to dot down, Clegg adding the extras for a 14-0 lead after 16 minutes.

The Saxons continued to enjoy the better of the play and they were only prevented from adding to their tally by ill-discipline at the tackle area.

Tonga only threatened sporadically, with their best movement seeing centre Suka Hufanga make a slashing break which eventually came to nothing.

And the South Sea Islanders fell further behind after 33 minutes as another powerful Saxons scrum saw the Tongan eight disintegrate and Poite march underneath the posts once again. Clegg added the conversion and a penalty on the stroke of half-time to hand Stuart Lancaster's side a 24-0 interval lead.

The Quins fly-half quickly added a further three points early in the second stanza after Tonga suffered more scrummaging woes.

But Tonga creditably hit back as a series of England penalties gave them the field position for lock Timani, who will play for the Scarlets next season, to crash over for a try converted by Kurt Morath.

Twelvetrees missed the chance to get the Saxons fourth try when he spilled the vital pass after a fine break from Clegg, and the power of Stevens at scrum time soon meant they were playing 14 men as referee Poite ran out of patience with replacement Ta'u Fainga'anuku and sin-binned the prop.

That left Tonga again defending a five-metre scrum and a man light they were again shunted backwards as they conceded a third penalty try.

Twelvetrees then got his try as Mike Brown launched a brilliant counter-attack which saw Crane put a grubber through for the centre to gather and score, with Clegg continuing his 100% record with the boot.


* HALTED: England Saxon''s Tom Johnson is tackled by Tonga''s Pepa Koloamatangi during the Churchill Cup match at Kingsholm
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jun 13, 2011
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