Marcus Smith kicked a 79th-minute penalty to give England a one-point win over the Springboks in a thrilling see-saw encounter at Twickenham on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Matchflow: England were full value for a 17-12 lead at the break, but would have been disappointed not to be further ahead against a misfiring Springbok side.
It took just seven minutes for Eddie Jones’ team to open the scoring as Manu Tuilagi did really well to finish off out wide, but he limped off shortly afterwards to be replaced by Max Malins, one of two backs on England’s bench.
England dominated the early exchanges, winning the territory and aerial battles, while they were also finding plenty of space out wide. This was exploited for England’s second try, when Malins broke the line from a midfield scrum, before fullback Freddie Steward used his strength to force his way over.
Despite a misfiring set piece, the Springboks still managed to keep themselves in the match through the boot of Handre Pollard, who slotted all four of his penalty attempts in the first half. The Boks also defended excellently towards the end of the half, forcing England to give away breakdown penalties whenever it looked like the hosts were building momentum.
The Springboks ramped up the pressure in the second half as the visitors started to dominate the scrum battle. However, two misses from Pollard meant that it did not translate into points. Pollard did manage to convert his seventh attempt to put the Boks to within two points of the lead.
Incredible defence from England prevented the Springboks from scoring from a powerful driving maul, but Elton Jantjies did give the Boks the lead for the first time in the Test with his first penalty attempt.
Not to be outdone, England struck back as a wonderfully worked move from a lineout put Joe Marchant into a gap and he in turn passed on his inside to put Raffi Quirke in to score.
The hosts received a blow when, after conceding their 17th penalty of the game, Will Stuart was sent to the sin bin, leaving England with 14 men until the 77th minute. The Boks immediately took advantage, sucking in defenders with another strong maul, before sending the ball wide for Makazole Mapimpi to score his 20th Test try.
While Jantjies missed his conversion from the left touchline, Frans Steyn was able to convert a long-range penalty to once again give South Africa a one-point lead.
A nervy finish was set up as Siya Kolisi was controversially yellow- carded for tackling Joe Marchant in the air. Ultimately, England managed to work their way upfield to win a breakdown penalty in front of the poles, which Smith converted for the win.