Marcus Smith stars as England edge Springboks in Twickenham thriller
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Cape Town – The Springboks lost their final game of the End of Year Tour to England at Twickenham in a clash that ended 27-26.
The Boks secured a historic 23-18 win over Wales in Cardiff and followed that up with a 30-15 victory over Scotland and, after a drama-filled week, the Boks were edged by Eddie Jones’ England after a thrilling second half.
After trailing 17-12 at the break, the Boks fought their way back and were in the lead up until Marcus Smith slotted a 79-minute penalty to end the game.
There weren’t many scrums in the first half, and South Africa being penalised in two of those said something about their performance in the first half. The Springbok lineout didn’t function at its best either early on.
England started strong and were pressing in the South Africans’ half early on. They orchestrated some solid play to get their first try. It started with a no-jump lineout from England, which resulted in Manu Tuilagi crossing over.
The scrums weren’t the ideal representation of the characteristic South African powerhouse. At the lineout, there were also some mishaps, while the Boks also erred on defence at times.
Damian de Alllende was one of the standout exceptions in that regard before the break. Not only did he produce a huge effort on defence in that first half, but his work off the ball was just as superb. He continued that form throughout the game. Skipper Siya Kolisi was also massive again.
Flyhalf Pollard was pleasing off the tee in the first half. He connected four-out-of-four, but also missed two – something that a team that lost by such a narrow margin would naturally lament.
The Springboks showed huge guts on defence in the second quarter and went into the break trailing 17-12, and while their lineout got off to a struggling start in the second half, their overall performance was a major step-up.
Pollard had a chance to take South Aftica to within two points early in the second 40, but he pulled it. His second chance also at posts was also a miss.
The Springboks’ effort after the break was a huge one. After a dangerous tackle on Eben Etzebeth, England received a warning by referee Andrew Brace. They delivered a major blow seconds afterwards, however, as they took a lineout and quickly worked the ball into midfield. The Boks were caught napping as the hosts displayed accurate passing, with replacement back Raffi Quirke pacing through to score (24-18).
England went down to 14 men when Will Stuart was shown yellow for collapsing a maul.
The Boks made use of it when they hit back with an absolute stunner of a try after replacement hooker Malcolm Marx showed good control in the drive after a maul in opposition 22. They worked the ball through the hands and a top skip pass from Lukhanyo Am led to the try-scoring machine, Makazole Mapimpi, crossing the chalk. Elton Jantjies just missed his conversion from touch (24-23).
Frans Steyn’s big boot made sure that the Boks took a 24-26 lead, but controversy – as was expected – showed its head when Kolisi was yellow carded for “tackling” the man in the air, even though he was in a realistic position to contest for the ball and his eyes were fixated on the ball.
England went for touch following that, and while they didn’t get a reward in terms of a five-pointer, Marcus Smith connected his 22nd kick to take the score to 27-26 to end the game.
England – 27: Tries: Manu Tuilagi, Freddie Steward, Raffi Quirke Conversions: Marcus Smith (3) Penalties: Smith (2) Yellow card: Will Stuart
South Africa – 26: Try: Makazole Mapimpi Penalties: Pollard (5), Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn Yellow card: Siya Kolisi