What the English newspapers are saying after South Africa’s defeat of England at Twickenham.
This past week, the English press made it clear that the game against the Springboks represented a final chance to set things right. But with Saturday’s defeat, Stuart Lancaster’s record against the big three southern hemisphere teams now reads: two wins from 13 Tests.
The 31-28 result at Twickenham has extended the Boks’ unbeaten run against England to 12. England have failed to progress, and the coverage in the Sunday newspapers reflects the painful fact. Unsurprisingly, there is more focus on England’s failure than South Africa’s success.
The Sunday Times is the only big newspaper that has run a picture of a South African celebrating on the front page of its sports section. ‘Battle cry: Boks condemn England to fifth straight loss’, barks the headline. The photograph is taken at the final whistle. Prop Jannie du Plessis is pictured screaming at the sky, while an inset shows Lancaster slapping his forehead in frustration.
‘The tiny margin at the end did not reflect England’s inferiority,’ says Stephen Jones in his match report, which notes that the hosts played as if petrified of the Boks. Of the visitors, Jones picked Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger, and Duane Vermeulen as the standouts.
Jones has also penned a column for today’s edition. Jones says England weren’t good enough before this game, and they have got worse. ‘The heady vision to become champions of the world by next November is now shelved, at least temporarily, because at the moment England are fighting tooth and nail simply for a form of respectability.’
In the same paper, Stuart Barnes focused on Burger’s ‘magnificent’ Man of the Match showing. Barnes believes the Boks boast a good blend of youth and experience, and that this bodes well for the 2015 World Cup. He writes that a less intense club stint in Japan has helped the likes of Burger rediscover his edge, and will ensure that some experienced players make it to next year’s global tournament.
Former World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio says in his Times column that England never looked like they were going to beat South Africa on Saturday. ‘Maybe England just aren’t as good as we thought they were and certainly Stuart Lancaster has things to work on’.
The Independent On Sunday as well as the Observer have contrasted the national rugby team’s defeat with the England football team’s 3-1 success against Slovenia. ‘Pain and gain’ reads the front of the sport section in the Independent, with accompanying pictures of a gutted Chris Robshaw and an elated Wayne Rooney. The Observer has the same idea, with the football lads celebrating above a picture of a glum-looking Robshaw.
Writing for the Observer, Michael Aylwin says that ‘England and Wales are no nearer to finding the key to beating opponents they feel are within touching distance’. Aylwin says England typically boast the better stats after a battle with the Boks, and yet the South Africans always manage to win. ‘It is the sureness of thought that marks out these southern hemisphere sides from their northern counterparts’.
‘Crisis point’ screams the headline of the front page of today’s sports section in the Sunday Telegraph. Robshaw is caught putting palm to face, and the accompanying statistics ram the point home. ‘5 defeats in a row for England’, ’12 Games’ since a win against South Africa’, ‘306 days until the start of the World Cup’.
‘Dire England out of their depth again’ says Steve James inside today’s edition of the Telegraph. James begins his report with two words: ‘Utterly awful’. He then notes that the scoreline was not a reflection of the contest at Twickenham.
In another piece in this paper, Paul Hayward writes that ‘Creative deficit leaves World Cup dream in doubt’. He describes the gap between England and the likes of South Africa as thus: ‘They [England] are like an honest racehorse that exhausts itself reaching the flanks of the eventual winner but lacks the class and finishing speed to go past’.
Ian McGeechan delivers a scathing assessment in a Telegraph column titled: ‘Ponderous, disjointed, and defeated. England have lost their momentum’. Other than at the set pieces, McGeechan feels England’s performance was mediocre. He says Owen Farrell should not have started, and that the poor showing by the England halfback combination impacted on the hosts’ attack against the Boks. Citing examples of abject decision-making, McGeechan says, ‘Farrell’s run was suicidal and Dylan Hartley’s stamp was reckless’.
By Jon Cardinelli