England put in a spirited performance to deny the Boks a series whitewash as the two sides played out a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Owen Farrell did have a chance to snatch victory for the visitors but missed terribly to the left with a drop-goal from 35 metres out as the June series ended 2-0 to the side wearing green and gold.
But there were plenty of positives for England to take home as this was a much-improved effort against a team that went backwards from Jo’burg. One being Thomas Waldrom, Tom Johnson and Danny Care’s performances on the tour finale.
It was evident that England were fired up for this final Test as they looked to salvage something from what has been a tough and physical June. They managed to transfer that fire into points too early on as good phase play led to Toby Flood opening the scoring from the tee on two minutes.
Morne Steyn did respond five minutes later when England infringed at a ruck before the visitors illustrated their intent at the other end soon after. Care was the main man making the noise in his comeback game on the Test stage as he chose to tap a penalty quickly and burrowed over from close range. Care’s decision was a bold statement but one that paid off as England continued to keep the passionate supporters at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium quiet.
Flood missed the extras and that proved to be his last act of the game on twelve minutes as he struggled to shake off a niggling issue. England’s loss of their fly-half was cushioned by the fact the tourists had started much better than last week, assuming an 8-3 advantage.
However, they would not score again in the first-half as when lock Tom Palmer slowed down possession at a ruck, Steyn stepped up to bring the Boks back to within one point. He would strike again on 28 minutes when Stuart Lancaster’s outfit was caught offside to begin a long spell of home attacks. England stood firm though and it was clear their steeliness was causing frustration to their hosts, who were missing Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn.
Lancaster would have been pleased with the pride being shown by his players in their last game of the season, but maybe not with Dylan Hartley six minutes after Owen Farrell had pushed England back in front from the tee. Hartley was carded for slowing down the play.
Those ten minutes approaching the hour mark were always going to be critical in the game but it was to be once Hartley returned that South Africa had their moment. Following a series of runners testing the English defensive line five metres out, Ruan Pienaar moved the ball out where JP Pietersen was waiting to dive over for back-to-back tries in this series. Steyn missed the conversion which meant the scoreline was 14-11 with fifteen minutes to go.
Farrell did tie things up to set up a nail-biting finish which saw South Africa knock at the door before England survived and launched their own final throw of the dice for victory. However, Farrell’s attempted match-winning drop-goal with the last kick of the game failed miserably.
Man-of-the-match: Mentions for the work that Gio Aplon, Marcell Coetzee and Tom Johnson got through, but England’s Danny Care announced his return to the Test scene with a fine 80-minute effort. He was busy and most definitely got the better of Francois Hougaard.
Moment-of-the-match: It may seem harsh to single out a player but England lost something when Toby Flood was forced off with an injury. Owen Farrell kicked too much and thus cut down the threat the visitors had posed early on, which saw them score eight points.
Villain-of-the-match: The disappointing result for South Africa. How dare they take down the mood on absent Springbok centre Francois Steyn’s big wedding day. A toast to 2-0?
For South Africa:
Pen: Steyn 3
Pen: Flood, Farrell 2
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre 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 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Paul Doran Jones, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Brad Barritt.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), John Lacey (Ireland)
By Adam Kyriacou
Article source: http://www.planet-rugby.co.za/story/0,25883,3551_7837810,00.html