Rugby World Cup: England withstand Fiji fightback in thrilling quarterfinal
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At Stade de Marseille: England 30 (Manu Tuilagi try 14min, Joe Marchant try 23min; Owen Farrell con, 5 pen, dg) Fiji 24 (Viliame Mata try 28min, Peni Ravai try 64min, Vilimoni Botitu try 68min; Frank Lomani con, pen, Simione Kuruvoli 2 con). HT: 21-10

Yellow card: Vinaya Habosi (Fiji) 23min  

England ended Fiji’s crowd-pleasing run at the Rugby World Cup with a tense 30-24 win to reach the semifinals for the sixth time on Monday (NZ time).

In a welcome result for the northern hemisphere after quarterfinal losses for Ireland and Wales on Sunday (NZT), the English countered a second-half fightback by the Flying Fijians as captain Owen Farrell kicked a drop goal and a penalty in the final eight minutes in Marseille.

England will play either hosts France or defending champions South Africa in the semifinals next weekend.

Trailing 21-10 at halftime, Fiji turned on their attacking flair and crossed for tries through prop Peni Ravai and first-five Vilimoni Botitu to tie the scores at 24-24 after 68 minutes.

The Pacific Island nation couldn’t complete the comeback in their bid to become the first tier-two team to get to the semifinals since the game went professional after the 1995 World Cup.

As for England’s players, they were largely written off six weeks ago after losing to Fiji – for the first time – at Twickenham in a World Cup warmup match.

Now, they have taken advantage of a kind draw to reach the last four without having played any team in the top five of the world rankings. They will be the underdogs in their semifinal in Paris on Sunday (NZT) but that might yet work in their favour, with expectations set to be low – outside the squad at least.

Fiji's late rally at least meant the darlings of the tournament didn't exit with a whimper and their campaign, featuring an unfortunate loss to Wales and a storied win over Australia, will still be celebrated back home by the rugby-mad fans, who had to get up in the small hours of the morning to watch the game.

The Fijians paid the price for a slow start that saw England centres Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant score tries in the opening 23 minutes, Fiji winger Vinaya Habosi get a sin-binning for head-on-head contact, and England surprisingly dominate the breakdown.

Fiji's huge open-play threat came only in the final half-hour and they thrilled the crowd at Stade Velodrome, where Argentina beat Wales the day prior.

And like in the All Blacks’ titanic win over Ireland, there was late drama as Fiji went through the phases with the clock in the red. They were going backwards when Farrell, who kicked 20 points, was penalised for a deliberate knock-on in centre-field.

He avoided a yellow card and Courtney Lawes produced the match-clinching turnover in the sixth minute of added-on time.