England will look to the future after a disappointing home World Cup but it was 37-year-old Nick Easter who stole the show as they finished the campaign with a 60-3 victory over Uruguay.
The Harlequins No.8 ensured the Red Rose, who were condemned to a pool-stage exit by last weekend’s defeat by Australia, cut loose in Manchester and became the oldest hat-trick scorer in test history.
There was also a second-half treble for Jack Nowell, while Bath Rugby winger Anthony Watson grabbed two and Henry Slade added an eye-catching score on his World Cup debut.
England will now watch on as the rest of the tournament runs it course on these shores but, despite their disappointment, this display reminded supporters there is plenty of young talent to be excited about.
It was Uruguay who went ahead inside two minutes, when the hosts were caught offside and fly-half Felipe Berchesi tapped over from close range.
But it took just five minutes for England to respond, Nowell kicking through, Watson winning the race to touch down just the before the ball went dead and Saracens man Owen Farrell converting.
England – with much to prove and arguably the World Cup’s weakest side in front of them – immediately set about extending that lead but they were guilty of trying to force one or two things when patience may have prevailed.
Patience did indeed prevail after 18 minutes when England formed a solid lineout maul and slowly rumbled over for Easter – who only joined the squad as an injury replacement halfway through the pool stage – to score, Farrell again adding the extras.
Before long, man-of-the-match Easter was at it again after a Danny Care show-and-go allowed him to collect and dive over from close range, Farrell making it three from three.
After a brief jaunt into the opposing 22, Uruguay were soon under pressure once more but the underdogs held firm – not quite Australia’s steely resilience at Twickenham earlier in the day but enough to keep the Red Rose at bay.
That resistance sucked some of the life out of England and they had to settle for a 21-3 lead at the break, though Uruguay captain Santiago Vilaseca was sent to sin bin seconds before the whistle went.
England didn’t take long to capitalise on their numerical advantage, shifting it wide for Watson to skip over – though Farrell’s perfect World Cup record from the tee came to an end.
A James Haskell knock-on halted England’s charge for a fifth after the flanker popped up at outside centre but Slade soon made amends.
England’s actual outside centre intercepted a box kick at his own ten-metre line and hacked forward all the way to the try line before scooping up the ball to score – Farrell missed again.
Nowell was next to cross over, after scrum-half Care broke clear to feed him, and Farrell rediscovered his range from the tee before making way for Jonathan Joseph.
Easter grabbed his hat-trick on the hour mark after another rolling maul and the floodgates were truly open.
Saracens full-back Alex Goode was denied a try by the TMO but, with ten minutes left on the clock, Nowell was not, crossing over by the right touchline – and he soon had a hat-trick of his own.
Another overlap allowed England to recycle quickly and Slade fed his Exeter Chiefs teammate to score, while a late penalty try wrapped things up.