The boot of pivot Danny Cipriani helped England Saxons secure their second win over South Africa 'A' by beating them 29-26 in George on Friday.
This was the second match between these two sides, Saxons were victorious in the first game when they held out for a 32-24 win in Bloemfontein last week Friday. This week, however, the South Africa 'A' side certainly put up a much improved overall performance.
Fly-half Danny Cipriani's fine form off the tee continued from last Friday's performance, which saw the Wasps-bound pivot succeed with five from six, while this week his kicking accuracy was the difference in the end for the visitors as he managed to convert three tries and the ultimate match winning penalty from his five attempts, only missing Taylor's first try.
SA 'A' managed to crossed the whitewash on four occasions which included a brace from Sergeal Petersen and a try apiece from Jean-Luc du Preez and Francois Venter while England Saxons four tries came courtesy of a brace from hooker Tommy Taylor along with a try apiece for Matt Kvesic and Christian Wade.
Despite the home side enjoying a healthy 68 percent possession for most of the opening 40, they only managed to score two tries – through du Preez and Petersen's first try – while an unconverted try scored by hooker Tommy Taylor along with what proved to be the match winning penalty conversion from Cipriani handed the home side a slender 12-8 lead as the players headed into the tunnel.
South Africa 'A' head coach Johan Ackermann's ten changes to his side which lost last week has certainly paid off as a fairly young home side were playing like men possessed in the opening 40.
Fly-half Francois Brummer's form from the tee was rather poor, in comparison to his counterpart, as the pivot missed two easy penalty attempts, in the first half, which could have given the home side a bigger cushion than the four point half-time lead and, in hindsight, a possible win in the end.
The England Saxons' clinical defence, in the opening quarter, was too strong for the home side, the likes of Dave Ewers and speedster Christian Wade held out a wave of relentless South Africa 'A' attacks but a brilliant lineout steal from RG Snyman saw Sharks loose forward du Preez power over form close range for the first points of the game, Brummer missed the conversion.
In contrast to last week's opening half, the home side succeeded in starving their opponents of quality possession and territory and looked after the ball which not only frustrated an experienced England Saxons side but they were also doing all of the tackling. The visitors having to make 58 first half tackles compared to the 14 of the hosts.
In particular for the visitors, prop Alec Hepburn was instrumental throughout as the Exeter Chiefs hardman kept the home side busy not only at the scrum time but also when he carried the ball as the SA 'A' players found it very difficult to stop him on numerous occasions. It was from a lineout set piece that saw Taylor control the ball at the back of the maul for his first try.
Speedster Petersen showed his skill when he scored his second try, in the opening minutes of the second 40, after beating three England defenders and was once again heavily involved, moments later, in the build-up that saw his Cheetahs colleague Venter go over for the home side's fourth try after the stand-in captain squeezed in between two Saxons to get his hand first on the ball to dot down.
The visitors were somewhat stunned with this quick second half start from the hosts, but in similar fashion to his first try, front-rower Taylor collected the ball at the back of the maul to crash over for his and England's second try and along with Cipriani's conversion from up against the touchline reduced the home side's lead to 26-15.
Minutes later the visitors made it a four-point game, as the match approached the final quarter, following some persistent pressure deep inside South Africa 'A' territory which saw Gloucester back-row Kvesic scoop up a loose ball to dive over and Cipriani added the extras to make the scoreboard read 26-22.
The experience of this England Saxons side paid off after a clinical attacking passage on the try line of the South Africa 'A', a quick pass out to the flying Wade saw him dive over as Cipriani's conversion handed England a 29-26 lead with less than five minutes remaining and they held on to this three-point lead to secure a second consecutive victory over the South Africa 'A' side and claiming the two-match series, 2-0.
For South Africa 'A':
Tries: Petersen 2, du Preez, Venter
Cons: Brummer 2, Zas
For England Saxons:
Tries: Taylor 2, Kvesic, Wade
Cons: Cipriani 3
South Africa 'A': 15 Leolin Zas, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Travis Ismaiel
England Saxons: 15 Mike Haley 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Don Armand, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Dave Attwood (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Micky Young, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Sam James
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)