LONDON (Reuters) - While Twickenham erupted to greet the all-important fourth try in England’s 35-11 Rugby World Cup victory over Fiji on Friday, the man who scored it, Billy Vunipola, admitted afterwards that he did not know there was a bonus point to be had.
With Australia and Wales also in their group, and the potential for all three big guns to beat each other, bonus points could become vital.
Teams collect four points for a win and another point if they score four tries. Defeat by seven points or less also earns a bonus point.
Coach Stuart Lancaster described Vunipola’s score in the last seconds as “a big, big try in the context of this pool,” though the message clearly had not got through to the man who forced his way past three mighty Fijians to score it.
“To be truthfully honest with you, I didn’t know that bonus points counted in the World Cup,” the 22-year-old said after the match.
“I was just more excited that I had scored a try.”
The World Cup used bonus points since 2003 and they are also used in the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship and Super Rugby competitions as well as in the European Cup and England and France’s domestic leagues. The Six Nations remains the only major competition not to use the system.
Supporters of it will point to Friday’s late drama as an illustration of how the system keeps the excitement going until the end.
Without a bonus point available England would probably have shut up shop to close the game down and secure a safe win as they led 21-11 with 10 minutes to go but instead they went all out for the two tries they needed.
Man of the match Mike Brown got his second and the team’s third with eight minutes remaining, setting up a thunderous finale sealed by Vunipola, with the help of the TV Match Official.
Vunipola’s impressive display in the last 20 minutes, when his powerful, direct running helped England regain control of the game, has put him in the frame to regain the starting number eight slot from Ben Morgan, who was below his best on Friday.
His brother Mako also made an impact and, after England’s scrum surprisingly failed to dominate, Lancaster will be considering both men for a starting berth against Wales back at Twickenham next Saturday.
“We are going to have to improve on that performance,” Lancaster said. “And the guys who came off the bench have certainly put their hands up for selection.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty