England too late again as Boks triumph

Date published: November 15 2014

Emerging on top in a physical, flawed tussle, the Springboks rebounded from defeat in Dublin to win 31-28 at Twickenham.

Emerging on top in a physical, flawed tussle, the Springboks rebounded from defeat in Dublin to win 31-28 at Twickenham.

South Africa’s issues against Ireland were well documented but there was no arrogance at Twickenham, just trademark power and commitment in defence in a brutal battle. They weren’t perfect by any stretch, but got the job done.

If you like your mauls, you were in for a treat.

From 20-6 up they will have been bitterly disappointed to let England back into the contest, but their greater experience and composure shone through.

Nerves jittered out of both camps and into the stands before kickoff. Back-to-back losses for either side would have been disastrous and now it’s England who are taking a long look at themselves.

Their reliance on Billy Vunipola for any go-forward is a burden, as the Boks licked their lips and chopped down England’s slow ball carriers time and again.

Owen Farrell had been demanded to deliver an authoritative performance yet he failed, putting his future as England’s long-term number ten in doubt with the efforts of his forwards in the second half covering up England’s flaws with successive tries from rolling mauls.

England had not beaten the Boks since 2006, coincidentally the last time South Africa lost back-to-back matches to Northern Hemisphere sides.

Stuart Lancaster’s reign is now under more scrutiny than ever before since he took charge in 2012.

When called upon to beat the best, England fell short and just like against the All Blacks they left it too late.

Kyle Eastmond’s footwork showed promise against the All Blacks and nearly undid the Springboks early on, a burst through the space between defenders handing England a half-chance before his offload fell to ground.

Farrell’s lack of composure in his 22 handed Pat Lambie the chance for the game’s first points with a well-struck penalty.

Handling errors were compounding England’s progress with the Boks defence standing firm and then pouncing on Danny Care’s indecision. Jan Serfontein burst away for his first Test try after latching onto an absolute gift of a misdirected pass.

England were a shambles, but the Springboks showed ruthlessness and all of a sudden sat 10-0 up.

Early dominance of the scrum and line-out gave England a set-piece but they did little with it, with no runners crashing up from deep after any initial progress before Marcell Coetzee pounced at the breakdown.

Half chances for Anthony Watson and Jonny May fell by the wayside but South Africa’s telegraphed clearance kicks were holding them back, a second chargedown ending with Farrell’s opening points for the home side.

Lambie responded following strong work from South Africa’s rolling maul in the ongoing battle of strength versus strength, England’s scrum responding with a free-kick ending in a second penalty for Farrell.

Careless penalties were a trend, Tom Wood following up Duane Vermeulen’s second ruck offence by playing Eben Etzebeth in the air.

Lambie let England off the hook just as his team had in general, only letting the hosts trail by a converted try at the break despite England dominating possession and territory.

There was no leniency after half-time; Cobus Reinach blazed over after combined brilliance from Lambie’s initial chip and then Willie le Roux’s perfect pass onto the rapid scrum-half.

The timing was critical – England were put into desperation mode and assaulted the Springbok line with a rampaging maul that careered from the left touchline to finish up under the posts through Davey Wilson.

In between England’s maul attempts the Boks were reduced to 14 men with Victor Matfield’s yellow card for pulling it down illegally.

England were now red hot and an error from the officials sprung them for their second try.

Bryan Habana’s clever lineout catch with feet either side of the line was incorrectly deemed to be ill-timed, giving England a throw-in that culminated with a rampaging score for the replacement Ben Morgan at the end of another monster maul.

From 6-20 to 20-20 in three minutes, England couldn’t capitalise on the yellow card against the All Blacks but made sure of it seven days on.

The Springboks counter-punched in similar style, the work of Schalk Burger standing out as South Africa bullied their way over in the corner to restore their lead.

Dylan Hartley’s yellow card was an unnecessary problem England didn’t need as he trampled over Vermeulen on the deck.

Coetzee continued to reign supreme at the breakdown, generating a third Lambie penalty, before George Ford instantly cancelled it out with his first three-pointer in Test rugby.

Tantalisingly poised with England returning to the corner and back to a full compliment, Vermeulen’s line-out steal came at a crucial time with the clock running out and Twickenham growing behind their side.

Just as Habana was unlucky earlier, so was Courtney Lawes as he attempted to sneak around the back of the maul – with the Boks going to the corner from the resultant penalty and confirming the result with a drop-goal from Lambie in the pocket.

Brad Barritt’s try, just like against the All Blacks, came too late as the English inquest begins into another near miss – character and composure from the Springboks shining through.

Man of the Match: Outstanding at the breakdown, Marcell Coetzee won a number of penalties.

Moment of the Match: The line-out England shouldn’t have had. From it Ben Morgan drove over to level the game up at 20-20.

Villain of the Match: Was it the right call? Dylan Hartley’s yellow card will split opinion but his careless action could have been avoided.

The scorers:

For England:
Tries: Wilson, Morgan, Barritt
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 2, Ford
Yellow Card: Hartley

For South Africa:
Tries: Serfontein, Reinach, Burger
Cons: Lambie 2
Pens: Lambie 3
Drop Goal: Lambie
Yellow Card: Matfield

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Marland Yarde.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handr