George Ford said “greasy” conditions made it tough for England to break down Japan during the first half of their 34-12 win at the Rugby World Cup.
On a humid evening in Nice, both sides opted to kick the ball and keep it tight in the opening 40 minutes before England scored three second-half tries.
Japan made 14 handling errors in the Pool D match, while England made 11.
“It was probably not the prettiest to watch but it’s hard to play with the ball in these conditions,” said Ford.
“These late kick-offs are dead greasy but we got there in the end.
“There was some improvement from us tonight but you can’t underestimate how difficult it is to play in those conditions.
“It doesn’t look like it from the TV or the stands but I promise you it’s very difficult. It was sweaty and clammy and you have got to be really clever in the way you play – and more often than not, we made the right decision.
“We knew it was going to be tough and Japan challenge you in different ways. We knew it would be that third or fourth quarter we could pull away a bit but we are delighted to get the win.”
England’s first try, through Lewis Ludlam, came after Japan spilled the ball and failed to reclaim their own line-out, and Courtney Lawes scored their second when the ball went backwards off Will Stuart’s hand and fortuitously ricocheted off the head of Joe Marler.
That ended the Japanese challenge before Ford, who contributed 14 points from the boot, picked out Freddie Steward for the third try with a pin-point cross-field kick.
Joe Marchant’s powerful finish late on sealed the bonus point as England wore down their opponents.
“We knew we would get the rewards if we kept doing the right things,” said England coach Steve Borthwick.
“The players have got to find a way to get the result. You saw a Japan team who kicked the ball 37 times, which is unusual and tells you a lot about the conditions tonight.
“You can feel the ball spinning out of your hands even before you’ve made contact. It’s hot, humid, it makes for a wet-weather game.
“The players found a way of scoring four tries. We felt that last quarter was where we needed to accelerate and the boys did that.
“We still have a lot of growth in us. Players of quality are going to start coming back. Owen Farrell becomes available next week [after suspension]. Tom Curry will become available the following week.
“I said the team is preparing for the tournament, they have immense quality throughout it, they want to perform on the biggest of stages and the boys showed that tonight.”
A second victory in as many games for England moves them into pole position to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals from Pool D.
Former England wing Chris Ashton told BBC Radio 5 Live that England’s kicking gameplan was effective.
“It seemed the ploy was to wear Japan down with the kicking plan in the first half, however frustrating it may have been,” said Ashton.
“It was tricky out there, as we have seen in all the games in very hot and sweaty conditions which makes it very difficult.
“When it goes through lots of phases out of a maul where it has been next to a sweaty shirt, it is tricky. You have to think about that on the hoof, but it is the same for everyone.”
England face Chile in their next game in Lille on Saturday.