Ellis impresses on his return to lead Saxon rout of Portugal

England Saxons 66 Portugal 0
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The Independent Online

If Martin Johnson happened to tune into England Saxons' rout of Portugal last night, after his trip back from the same country after a five-day training camp with the senior squad, it is safe to assume he went to bed a contented fellow.

Of the 22 players named in the Saxons' squad, Harry Ellis, Tom Varndell, Nick Abendanon and Jordan Crane all performed at maximum efficiency and as they are also the four most likely to feature in the Six Nations should England require them, Johnson, the national team manager, will have had an undisturbed night's rest.

This encounter was less of a serious international trial and much more an opportunity for the Leicester duo of Ellis and Varndell to seek rugby redemption. Ellis was making his first appearance in any colours since the end of his six-week ban for spear-tackling the New Zealand outside-half Dan Carter during the Tigers' Heineken Cup defeat at Perpignan on 14 December.

The scrum-half's concerns about his absence from the selection process will have been further compounded by Johnson, who appears to be putting increasing faith in either Danny Care or Ben Foden to fulfil the number nine role for England.

However, Ellis's worries pale into insignificance compared with Varndell's requirement to prove that he is still capable of winning matches from the wing, having fallen out of favour at both Welford Road and Twickenham.

As predicted, England did not so much camp in Portugal's half as get out the bricks and mortar and consider making it their permanent residence. Possession did not equal early points though, until Ellis picked up at the back of a scrum after 18 minutes and snuck over.

Adam Powell then fell on a superbly judged Ed Barnes kick shortly after to increase England's lead, before a beautifully floated Nick Abendanon crossfield kick bounced perfectly into the grateful arms of Varndell to perhaps ease some of his current worries.

It soon became a romp. Ellis crossed again from close out before Noah Cato was the final set of hands in a beautiful passing move from one side of the pitch to another as England overwhelmed the opposition.

England relaxed in the second half but comfortable walkover scores for Dominic Waldouck, Matt Smith and Crane plus further tries for Varndell and Powell completed the win, helped by four conversions on the night for Ed Barnes as well a further four from his replacement Alex Goode.

England Saxons: Tries: Ellis 2, Powell 2, Varndell 2, Cato, Waldouck, Smith, Crane. Conversions: Barnes 4, Goode 4.

England Saxons: Abendanon; Varndell, Waldouck (Smith, 55), Powell, Cato; Barnes (Goode, 48), Ellis (Simpson, 60); Cole (Catt, 55), Webber (Ward, 48), Wilson, Crane, Skivington, Myall, Saull (Fisher, 69), Dowson (Mercey, 60).

Portugal: Cabral; Esteves (Silva, 25), David Mateus, Mira (Aguiar, 46), Foro; D Pinto, J Pinto (Leal, 53); Segurado (Junior, 53), Correia (Taful, 75), Murre, Severino (Duarte, 61), G Uva, Acosta, Palha, J Uva (Reis, 18).

Referee: P Allan (Scotland).

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