Planet Rugby

Boks seal series in Johannesburg

16th June 2012 15:18

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England South Africa 2nd Test Ellis Park

Top effort: JP Pietersen

South Africa became the third nation from the south to prematurely wrap up their series after they edged England 36-27 in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Victory means that the third and final international between these two sides - at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium next week - is now a dead rubber.

It was a deserved win for the Boks as a first-half onslaught had journalists scrolling through the record books. It looked that worrying for England.

But credit to England as they rallied in the second 40 minutes, with scrum-half Ben Youngs' brace of tries acting as the catalyst to the visitors' cause.

From the kick-off it seemed it was the season for giving on Youth Day in South Africa as England gave their hosts five points on a silver platter when a ball went straight through the scrum on the visitors' five-metre. Spotting the vacant ball on the blindside was Willem Alberts, who backed up last week's man-of-the-match effort by opening matters on four minutes. But they could not make it 7-0 as Morne Steyn's kicking misery continued.

England had touched the ball only twice - and one of those times was from the kick-off - when the Springboks crossed again to cap a nightmare start for Stuart Lancaster's men. This time it was the brute force of hooker Bismarck du Plessis that did the damage, as he carried three tacklers with him towards the uprights. After confirmation from Television Match Official Iain Ramage, the try was easily converted by Steyn to make it 12-0 on nine minutes.

Promoted fly-half Toby Flood did put England on the board after Youngs was held back getting to a breakdown by flank Marcell Coetzee. But it only papered over the cracks in the leaky defence, which didn't take too long to be breached for a third time. On this occasion it was from a remarkable 17 phases from the hosts that saw the bruising Alberts and Eben Etzebeth getting the go-forward ball before Francois Hougaard capitalised from five out.

Steyn's conversion made it 22-3 with 20 minutes on the clock and with the altitude factor expected to come into play in the second 40, the prospect of an English comeback seemed unlikely. That was until a quick tap from Youngs on halfway led to right wing Chris Ashton breaking the line before he fed Flood in support. The ten's extras to his score had pulled Lancaster's men back to within twelve points before Steyn smartly sent over a drop-goal.

And that was how it stayed going into the break as the Springboks' 4/1 price to win the Rugby Championship suddenly looked rather generous. It was a half of physicality and intelligence that in truth left England shell-shocked and needing the ten minutes to think.

Steyn got things ticking again on 47 minutes to make it 28-10 before the so-called altitude factor was set to kick in. However, England quashed such predictions as they sparked a spell that silenced Coca-Cola Park, with two tries from Youngs bringing them within seven.

Flood continued the surge with a further three points on 65 minutes as - like earlier in the day in Christchurch and Melbourne - it seemed there would be another June Test that was going down to the wire. But this time would it finally be a northern nation smiling at full-time?

It would not. South Africa dug deep and a virtuoso try from JP Pietersen ended England's hopes as he first broke clear from his own ten-metre up to England's 22 - beating several attempted tacklers - before finding himself unmarked on the right wing following a couple of ensuing phases. That critical score pushed the Boks up to a 36-27 advantage with seven minutes remaining in Johannesburg and South Africa ultimately prevailed to make it 2-0.

Man-of-the-match: The official award went to JP Pietersen following his critical try and general workrate. However, we take our hat off to young lock Eben Etzebeth as he showed what quality and promise he has in the Springbok jumper. In just his second Test, he carried superbly and proved he has a bright future in the green and gold. Bismarck du Plessis was also his menacing self while England's stand-out was Ben Youngs.

Moment-of-the-match: It came on 73 minutes just when England looked like they might be on their way to a remarkable come-from-behind win. Step forward JP Pietersen, who went from his own half up to the English 22 before popping up on the right wing for the clincher.

Villain-of-the-match: Nothing much from what we could see.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries: Alberts, B du Plessis, Hougaard, Pietersen
Con: M Steyn 2
Pen: M Steyn 3
Drop: M Steyn

For England:
Tries: Flood, Youngs 2
Con: Flood 3
Pen: Flood 2

South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Bjorn Basson.

England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 David Strettle, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Alex Goode.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

By Adam Kyriacou

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