Bath Rugby Academy fly-half Rory Jennings helped England kick off the defence of their World Rugby Under 20 Championship title yesterday evening, kicking 14 points in their 59-7 victory against Japan in Calvisano.
In a dominant and composed first half, England - led by Bath Academy lock Charlie Ewels and starring fellow Academy player Max Clark - built a 45-0 lead with tries from George Perkins, Jack Walker, Tom Howe and two apiece for Aaron Morris and Stuart Townsend.
However, Japan were not to be completely undone and following the break they kept England under pressure with a passionate and determined performance.
Though Sam Skinner capped a length-of-the-field move minutes after the restart, the Brave Blossoms replied via a penalty try when centre Clark knocked on deliberately, the centre earning himself a yellow card in the process.
The second period was rather disjointed, with Japan enjoying parity in terms of possession and territory. Fittingly though, lock Will Witty capped an impressive debut at this level by shunting over from short range on the final play.
England Head Coach Jon Callard said: "I am pleased with that performance, we came out of the blocks and started really well. We were clinical with the opportunities that presented themselves to us.
"Second half we emptied the bench and Japan found momentum. To their credit, they were very good and stretched us on the edge with their attacking play. We are through the first game and will be all the better for the experience of dealing with the heat and conditions out here."
England opened the scoring within the first minute through Perkins, Jennings sending the wing in under the posts before converting.
A second was added minutes later when hooker Jack Walker charged over in the corner, Jennings again on target to add the extra two.
Scrum-half Townsend then darted over from the back of England's driving maul before full back Morris got in on the action to score England's fourth try and secure the all-important bonus point.
Jennings' conversion put England 26-0 ahead within 15 minutes. A second soon followed for Morris as he raced onto a neat offload from Nick Tompkins.
Just before the half-hour mark, Japan began building some phases with periods of attack in England's half but strong work at the breakdown by Paul Hill caused Japan to be penalised for not releasing. Townsend took the penalty quickly, sprinting down field to claim his second in an all-round authoritative performance.
Howe, making his first England start, added one more just before half time, again created by Tompkins – this time a perfectly-weighted grubber.
Replacement Skinner got the scoreboard ticking within minutes of the second half. It looked like Japan had responded when Tevita Tatafu drove over the line, much to the delight of the crowd however it was disallowed for obstruction.
Buoyed by that immediate response efforts, Japan remained on the offensive and were eventually rewarded with a penalty try when Clark saw yellow for a deliberate knock on. Ryuji Noguchi converted to claim the full seven points with twenty minutes left to play.
Momentum remained with Japan until the final ten minutes when England pushed for a final score and it was debutant Witty who went over.
Wales are next up on Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm), and Callard's charges will be look to put right their defeat to the same opponents in the Six Nations.