- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - England thrashed Uruguay 60-3 in its last Rugby World Cup pool match on Saturday, ending an otherwise miserable campaign that raised questions about its ability to compete at the highest level.

Having failed to reach the quarterfinals, the first host side to ever do so, England wanted to leave its fans with something to cheer about, and left winger Jack Nowell showed his finishing skills with a well-taken hat trick of tries. But given that coach Stuart Lancaster’s side needs to build for the future, it was ironic that another hat trick was scored by No. 8 Nick Easter, the 37-year-old veteran who was a TV commentator the previous weekend.

Right winger Anthony Watson chipped in with a try early on in each half and outside center Henry Slade also scored one in England’s haul of 10.

The 10th was a penalty try awarded by referee Chris Pollock right on the final buzzer.

England’s fans inside the City of Manchester Stadium did their best to lift their players’ spirits, with a passionate rendition of “God Save the Queen” and warm applause for the players as they did a lap of honor.

“Even from getting off the bus to the game, the reaction was fantastic,” Lancaster said. “It’s been a tough week and the boys have been hurting all week. It’s given the boys a huge lift to know the country is still behind them.”

But England’s losses - 33-13 to Australia at Twickenham last Saturday, and 28-25 to Wales a week earlier - are engraved on his mind.

“We were 22-12 up against Wales and not far away. For 65 minutes we were playing good test-match rugby, we weren’t far off,” Lancaster said. “The frustration will be there forever, for not nailing that game and putting us under pressure for the Australia game.”

There are no such regrets in Uruguay’s happy camp, only pride.

“The players are happy with their World Cup, I’m proud of my players,” coach Pablo Lemoine said. “We looked into each other’s eyes and we said we gave it our best.”

Linking arms and heads held high, Uruguay’s players bellowed out their country’s national anthem, chests bursting.

It seemed to work - if only briefly - as Uruguay took a second-minute lead through flyhalf Felipe Berchesi.

When Uruguay’s part-timers fly back home, most will go back to their day jobs.

For England’s professionals, they have to find a way to improve at theirs.

“We had high hopes of doing well,” Lancaster said. “Overall, our performances have been good but not over the 80 minutes.”

After Uruguay’s surprise lead, England hit back as Slade - one of eight changes to the side - aimed a floating kick down the right and Watson used his pace to get on the end of it. Pollock awarded it after a quick video referral.

But England’s new-look team struggled to make an impression, typified by sloppy handling errors, and it was left to an old hand to steady the nerves.

Easter bundled over the line for a converted try and soon had another one, again in the left corner, following a strong rolling maul.

It got harder for Uruguay when lock Santiago Vilaseca was sin-binned on the stroke of halftime, and moments after the restart Watson got his second try.

England’s players still looked edgy, however, captain Chris Robshaw spilling one pass near his chest, and flanker James Haskell dropping an even easier one.

The 22-year-old Slade did better with his feet.

After charging down scrumhalf Agustin Ormaechea’s kick, he kicked the ball up the field three times before touching down in the left corner for his first England try.

Then, scrumhalf Danny Care found a gap and fed Nowell in the left corner.

Missing the previous two conversions, Owen Farrell slotted that one over before being replaced by Jonathan Joseph, meaning that George Food took kicking duties.

After another rolling maul helped Easter to his third try, Nowell crossed twice in the right corner. Ford failed to convert both, but converted the penalty try in front of the posts.

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