Messy Boks can’t make it count

A cat­a­logue of er­rors at Twick­en­ham sees a chance for Rassie’s men to claim the scalp of Eng­land go beg­ging

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT - MIKE GREEN­AWAY­ Low Sweet Char­iot. El­liot Daly. Swing Penal­ties: Owen Far­rell (3). Tries: Sbu Nkosi. Penal­ties: Han­dre Pol­lard (2)

ENG­LAND: (6) 12 SOUTH AFRICA: (8) 11

SEL­DOM in the field of rugby con­flict has a team so butchered a game as the Spring­boks did against an out­gunned Eng­land at Twick­en­ham yes­ter­day.

For 50 min­utes of the match the beefy Bok pack bul­lied their op­po­nents but al­most every time they had smashed their way into a po­si­tion to score points they cocked it up. Mon­u­men­tally.

It was ag­o­nis­ing to watch, and with each li­ne­out over throw, each un­forced han­dling er­ror, the gutsy home side clawed their way out of jail to even­tu­ally snatch a vic­tory Ed­die Jones would have savoured long into the night, espe­cially af­ter a prob­a­ble mi­nor coro­nary at the very death of the game when ref­eree An­gus Gar­dener re­viewed a high and arm­less hit on An­dre Ester­huizen by Owen Far­rell, only to fail to nail the Eng­land cap­tain.

The penalty that should have been given was in easy range for Han­dre Pol­lard...

But it did not go the Boks way. It re­ally was one of those days. When the South Africans were not shoot­ing them­selves in the foot they were hav­ing the rub of the green go the op­po­si­tion way.

Three min­utes be­fore the end, a Pol­lard penalty to win the game shaved an up­right, a foot to the left and the Boks would have won. But it should never have come down to that penalty or the ref­eree’s shocker at the end ...

A prime in­di­ca­tion of how this Bok team got out of bed on the wrong side was Mal­colm Marx’s shocker of a per­for­mance. The un­for­tu­nate hooker had ear­lier in the week been named as a con­tender for World Rugby Player of the Year. He came with a big rep­u­ta­tion but could hardly do a thing right.

Three of his li­ne­out throws went way over the top of ev­ery­body, each when the Boks were within me­tres of the Eng­land line. He also made a num­ber of han­dling er­rors.

On the sub­ject of those li­ne­out mishaps, two of those li­ne­outs should not have taken place. The Boks had been awarded penal­ties near the line and surely the wiser de­ci­sion would have been to take the scrum. The Boks set scrum was heav­ily dom­i­nant and qual­ity ball would have been guar­an­teed...

As early as the fifth minute, the first op­por­tu­nity the for­wards had to rum­ble it up from a li­ne­out, Eng­land con­ceded a penalty for Pol­lard to con­vert into points.

It all looked so sim­ple, and it should have been.

The pres­sure on Eng­land mounted in those early stages and in the 15th minute Maro Itoje was sin-binned for a shock­ing off­side tackle. There had been a bril­liant cross kick to the cor­ner flag by Pol­lard where Sbu Nkosi showed re­mark­able aerial skills to pluck it out of the air. He fell short of the line and when Ivan Van Zyl picked it up to dive over, he was pounced on by Itoje.

But then fol­lowed one of the li­ne­out over­throws, and five min­utes later, Far­rell lev­elled the scores.

The next Bok blun­der saw a for­ward freight train rolling in­ex­orably to­wards the line only for it to be de­railed not by Eng­land but by the ball be­ing clum­sily dropped.

On the half hour mark, the Boks man­aged to get some­thing right. Damian de Al­lende, prob­a­bly the best Bok on the day, split the de­fence and when he was brought down, a host of Boks play­ers skil­fully shuf­fled the ball un­til it found Sbu Nkosi out wide, and he fin­ished bril­liantly, his third Test try against the English.

But Eng­land hit back with a Far­rell penalty. They had only two op­por­tu­ni­ties to get points in the first and they took them both for their six points. The Boks had just two more points at half time from a plethora of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

And in the 50th minute Eng­land, un­be­liev­ably, took the lead through a 50m El­liot Daly penalty.

For the first time the 82 000 crowd found its voice, break­ing into

Sud­denly the mo­men­tum was with an Eng­land side which had be­gun to be­lieve they could pull it off.

With 15 min­utes to go the Boks won a break­down penalty thanks to pres­sure from Thomas du Toit, and Pol­lard coolly slot­ted the points to nudge the Boks ahead at 11-9.

But Eng­land were find­ing space out wide, espe­cially with some of the Bok de­fend­ers rashly rush­ing out of line. And their scrum was find­ing heart and there was an in­evitabil­ity about Du Toit con­ced­ing a scrum penalty. Far­rell duly put his team ahead 12-11 to set up a dra­matic fi­nal 10 min­utes.

Scor­ers Eng­land: Spring­boks:

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