Planet Rugby

England reduced to zero

14th September 2007 21:50

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Jaque Fourie v England

Green Giant: Fourie rounds Lewsey

South Africa have shredded England's World Cup ambitions, inflicting a humiliating 36-0 World Cup defeat upon the English in Paris on Friday.

While the Springboks were tactically adept, and their execution and discipline spot-on, the focus will be on England.

It is rare to see any international team beaten to zero, and for the full eighty minutes England constructed not one meaningful scoring chance. When Jason Robinson left the pitch in the second half, England's lone inspiration went with him, and it is difficult to see where any other may come from.

England were lucky. They did not deserve much more than nil, but they were lucky South Africa did not get several more points. England were outplayed. South Africa outplayed the World Champions in this pool match.

It was decertified as "only a pool match" but it was a lot more for it decided - barring catastrophe or miracle - that South Africa have perhaps an easier time in the knock-out matches. England are now left to gather their strength to play Samoa who gave South Africa a harder time than they did.

Afterwards England captain Martin Corry said: "It's a big blow for us." What was obvious from it was that the World Champions will not be World Champions in November.

The Springboks were nearly faultless. They were stronger than England, better organised than England and faster in everything than England who looked clumsy. Playing alternating fly-halves proved a silly idea and destroyed any hope England may have had of playing with their backs. Even when they were close to the South African line they did not look like scoring a try.

Nothing epitomised England's incapacity more than when they won a tighthead at a scrum and scrum-half Shaun Perry kicked the ball out on the full opposite the place where they won the scrum.

Apart from the three tries they scored, South Africa had another three excellent chances to score tries. In fact it was inexplicable that they did not score one of them.

England were better at the scrums. There their game stopped. Their line-outs were adequate - two lost, two skew. But it was at the tackle that they were beaten. The Springboks won turn-over after turn-over, one of which produced JP Pietersen's first try. The Springboks were able to make headway when they had the ball, England simply could not.

The Springboks emptied their bench. They gave all their players a chance to have a run to savour the moment. They were that comfortable in victory. England had some forced replacements. Brave Jason Robinson, England's only star, went off bleeding when a hamstring shot him down. Jamie Noon went off on a stretcher, and there was a lot of blood spilled. The trenches were tough on the warm French night.

Andy Farrell kicked off (Was he really the England fly-half, because that is where he often played, which may well make him the biggest fly-half in the history of rugby football!). Almost immediately England were under pressure. The South Africans had five throw-ins to line-outs in the first four minutes as England battled to contain the pressure. The fifth line-out produced the first try.

The Springboks caught and mauled. The mastodon moved in a slow plod and suddenly the match exploded into life as Fourie du Preez got the ball out and quickly off to JP Pietersen who went racing down the right touch-line. He passed inside to Du Preez who stumbled but got a perfect pass inside to Juan Smith who raced over for a try while two team-mates were there to do in like manner if given the chance. Percy Montgomery converted, taking his tally of Test points to 799 on a perfect night in Paris when he kicked impeccably - off the tee that is for he had two poor dropped goal attempts.

Back the Springboks came and when Matt Stevens was penalised at a tackle Frans Steyn kicked a long penalty goal to make the score 10-0.

After the Springboks had fumbled and England kicked through, there was a period of England territorial dominance. It was not threatening dominance, just being in a better position but when it broke South Africa could have scored - should have scored.

England were penalised and quick-thinking Fourie du Preez hoofed the ball straight down the middle of the field. Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana gave chase. Fourie got the ball and looked certain to score till Josh Lewsey tackled him at the line and lost the ball forward. A wiser man would have popped a pass to Habana who would have scored the simplest of tries.

South Africa settled down to attack. Montgomery missed two drop attempts and Steyn another.

Robinson produced an electric moment when he marked, tapped and raced down the middle of the field darting, accelerating away. But there was nobody to do anything with that moment of brilliance.

When Stevens was offside at a tackle/ruck Montgomery made it 13-0.

Then came another great try. Wikus van Heerden, the best ball poacher on the field, won a turn-over in brilliant fashion deep in Springbok territory. The Springboks seemed about to make a mess of this gift when suddenly Du Preez picked up the ball and went racing down the field with an astonishing turn of speed. He drew Robinson perfectly and passed to Pietersen on his right and the wing who had made the first try scored the second. Montgomery converted and at half-time the Springboks led 20-0.

The match was won.

The match won, the Springboks consolidated in the second half, content to take points on offer and make sure that England's nil stayed intact, the first side to score nil in a World Cup match in 2007.

Montgomery goaled again to make it 26-0, and England made several changes, none of which had an impact on the game.

England had a five-metre line-out after the touch judge reported Du Preez for some perceived infringement in the air - a silly decision, but they did not really look like scoring, and now the Springboks were content to pass the ball even in their own 22.

The Springboks got on the attack on their right but were not convincing as they bumbled their way left when suddenly Du Preez picked up the ball and went racing off to his right. Three English players looked on in wonder as he slid amongst them and sent Pietersen over for his second try. 33-0.

Three tries and three times Du Preez had played a major role.

Now it was time to be jolly. The Springboks could have scored as they ran out of their own 22 and Rossouw had the ball with men inside. But he opted to kick and the ball rolled out. Then they swept on the right and looked certain to score but Paul Sackey knocked on a pass from André Pretorius deliberately and was penalised for it. Montgomery goaled and the scoring ended.

Man of the Match: Despite the heroics and skill of Jason Robinson, the Man of the Match would be a South African. You could start at 15 and go to 1, but there were especially great performances from Wikus van Heerden, Victor Matfield, John Smit, captain for the 49th time, Butch James with some judicious kicks, Frans Steyn, who was great in the tackle amongst other things, JP Pietersen who had by far his best match in a Springbok jersey, Percy Montgomery who was equalling Joost van der Westhuizen's record of 89 caps and our Man of the Match Fourie du Preez in one of the greatest exhibitions of scrum-half play in the history of the game. It seems that there is nothing he cannot do.

Moment of the Match: As a call to sympathy it would have been the injury to Jason Robinson but really it was the vision, speed and skill of Fourie du Preez's break to set up the first try by JP Pietersen.

<>B>Villain of the Match: Nobody at all.

The scorers:

For South Africa:

Tries: Smith, Pietersen 2

Cons: Montgomery 3

Pens: Steyn, Montgomery 3

England: 15 Jason Robinson, 14 Josh Lewsey, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Andy Farrell, 11 Paul Sackey, 10 Mike Catt, 9 Shaun Perry, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Tom Rees, 6 Martin Corry (captain), 5 Ben Kay, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Mark Regan, 1 Andrew Sheridan.

Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Perry Freshwater, 18 Steve Borthwick, 19 Lewis Moody, 20 Andy Gomarsall, 21 Peter Richards, 22 Mathew Tait.

South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 François Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Wikus van Heerden, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Brendon Botha, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Os du Randt.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Johann Muller, 19 Bob Skinstad, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 André Pretorius, 22 Wynand Olivier.

Referee: Joël Jutge

Touch judges: Kelvin Deaker, Carlo Damasco

Television match official: Simon McDowell

Assessor: Ian Scotney

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