England continued their run of dispensing with Southern hemisphere sides with a comfortable win against the Springboks.
In wet conditions the game opened with a kicking duel with neither team showing a willingness to keep ball in hand due to the conditions.
England’s ill-discipline led to the open score for the Springboks with a Pat Lambie penalty from 45 meters out getting the Boks on the score board. The Boks continued to benefit from England ill-discipline finding themselves on attack once again in the English half. The Boks having continued to regress back to their old fashion forwards, set piece punctuated by kicking gameplay style, were starting to reap some reward in the wet conditions. Off the back of a line out the Boks continued to hit the ball up with the forwards with Lambie taking the opportunity to slot a field goal from right in front.
England, finally getting their hands on the ball in the right half off the field, took the opportunity from their first real attacking set piece working a well-executed move off a line out. The ball went through the hands of the backs across the field putting Jonny May into the corner for the opening try with the reliable boot of Owen Farrell making the conversation, taking the score to 7-6.
The game then fell in to the lull of a wet day forwards battle until more English ill-discipline led to another penalty; Lambie converting easily, putting the Boks back in the lead.
The game started to come to life with both teams showing some enterprise and the forwards going hard at it, but neither team were the masters over the block of soap. The hits kept coming and as a demonstration of the ferocity, hard man Etzebeth was floored by Billy Vunipola after a collision at the tackle, ending Etzebeth’s game after he failed the concussion test.
A scrum penalty to England from the injury time restart allowed Farrell to add the 3 points from directly in front putting the English back in the lead 10-9.
The English seized the opportunity after JP Pieterson spilled a highball as the English tried to exit their 22. The English recovered the ball, kicking it forward to chase which resulted in what’s best described as pinball that ended with an English player on the ball over the line. The TMO took some time to de-tangle the events before awarding the English a try. With the conversion, the score moved to 17-9.
The English closed out the half adding another 3 from a 51 metre penalty conversation by Daly after the Boks were ruled off their feet at the breakdown.
Halftime 20-9 to England.
The English got off to a quick start in the second half. A poor Lambie kick was quickly returned with a series of good runs and quick hands resulting in Youngs stepping through a hole in a slow and laboured Boks defensive line, passing to Ford to score. Farrell again converting taking the score to 27-9.
At the 49 minute mark the English kept the score board ticking over with a an easy penalty for Farrell to kick for the Boks not rolling away. The score now 30-9.
At the 55 minute mark Goosen came on to replace Lambie. Goosen’s willingness to take the ball to the line caught the English defence by surprise as the Boks jumped on a spilled forward pass and unusually used their backs to run at the line spreading it wide to Whitely. He offloaded to Goosen who was running a good support line, to finish off the move and score for the Boks. The conversion was unsuccessful and the score was 30-14.
At the 66 minute mark the English hit back with Youngs repeating his early efforts and again stepping through a big hole in the Boks defence and offloading, this time to Farrell who went in straight under the posts. The conversion easy, the score moved to 37-14 and Eddie Jones started to empty the bench.
With both team squandering scoring opportunities, the Boks managed to have a period of sustained possession while on attack but blew multiple scoring opportunities with errors. In the final 2 minutes the Boks again in possession were finally was able to retain control of the ball and moved it wide through their backs to Willie le Roux who scored in the corner after some poor English defence. Ruan Combrinck got the conversion and the game ended with England winning 37-21.
The wet conditions played a part in making ball handling difficult and causing a lot of errors. For the Boks Goosen and later de Klerk made a huge difference in attack increasing the tempo and bringing the backs into the game. The body language at times for the Boks players was interesting and concerning, looking laboured and like a team full of pessimists.
The English squandered a lot of scoring opportunities due to errors which can be put down to the wet conditions but the continuity and general play improved as the game went on and they are looking ominous.
The game changer
The first try to the English seemed to be a psychological blow to the Boks with most of their eggs in the set piece and forwards basket, having the English show them how it’s done by executing a set piece backline move first up from a lineout almost unopposed would have been a body blow. Youngs stepping through the Boks defensive line 3 minutes after half time really reinforced the point they were on the back foot.
Man of the match
Joe Launchbury was the official man of the match. For mine, Youngs stepping through the Boks defence twice in the second half leading to tries really wounded the Boks and exposed the defensive weakness of the big Boks.
Score & Scorers
Tries: May, Lawes, Ford, Farrell
Conversions: Farrell 4
Penalties: Daly, Farrell 2
South Africa 21
Tries: Goosen, Le Roux
Penalties: Lambie 2
Field Goals: Lambie