England end year with dramatic win over world champions South Africa

England completed their 2021 Autumn Nations Series campaign with a dramatic 27-26 victory over world champions South Africa.

The autumn international at Twickenham was a rematch of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, where the Springboks beat England 32-12 to win their third world title.

The home team started fast, with Manu Tuilagi scoring in the corner after forcing his way across the line. This was the Sale Sharks centre’s last involvement in the game with him being substituted through injury shortly after. Fly-half Marcus Smith converted to give England a seven point lead. 

England made a lot of mistakes that allowed South Africa back into the game. Handré Pollard gave South Africa their first points after England winger Jonny May dropped the ball that led to a penalty which Pollard converted.

Freddie Steward crossed for his second try for England to increase England’s advantage to 14-3. It was the Leicester Tigers full-backs second try in two weeks after scoring against Australia at Twickenham last Saturday. 

Pollard scored another three point penalty before Smith scored a penalty straight afterwards, which meant that England led 17-6 at the break.

England’s lack of discipline was the main story of the game. England conceded 18 penalties during the course of the game, including 10 in the second half, whilst the Springboks only conceded five in the whole match.

South Africa dominated the second half, but struggled to find a way through a determined England defence. However, the home team’s discipline remained a problem, and with 17 minutes remaining, Elton Jantjies converted a penalty after a low tackle by stand-in captain Courtney Lawes, who was leading the team in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell. 

Raffi Quirke put England back ahead with his first international try, straight after South Africa went ahead. A break from Joe Marchant split the South African defence, before he passed left to scrum-half Quirke, who scored in only his second international appearance.

England tightened prop Will Stewart was sent to the sin-bin in the 66th minute after a succession of fouls, reducing England to 14 men.

Makazole Mapimpi scored South Africa’s first try of the match, his 20th international try in 25 internationals. Jantjies missed the conversion meaning that England remained a point ahead with 10 minutes to play.

Another England mistake soon after gave South Africa another penalty, this time François Steyn kicking through the posts to give them a two point lead.

South African captain Siya Kolisi was yellow carded for a tackle in mid-air on Marchant, reducing both team’s to 14 men.

The absence of the South African captain seemed to give England renewed hope. And in the 79th minute, the English won a last gasp penalty after a foul by Jantijes, which allowed Smith to kick to win the match by a point, giving in a perfect result to end the year.

England coach Eddie Jones was pleased with the result. He said: “I thought it was a fantastic effort. We had a young team. They probably didn’t realise how important the game was, and they just went out there and kept playing and playing and playing and we’re really pleased.”

England will next be in action in the 2022 six nations on February 5 against Scotland at Murrayfield. South Africa will now be able to have some time off after a year where they secured their position as the number one team in the world, and won a three match series against the British and Irish Lions. 


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