Eng­land weather the storm to kick off Au­tumn with a win

The Rugby Paper - - News - From NICK CAIN at Twick­en­ham

THERE are home-town de­ci­sions, and then there are those that come from the sofa in your own front room.

And Owen Far­rell will be hugely re­lieved that he got one of the lat­ter from Aussie ref­eree An­gus Gard­ner in the very last act of this Au­tumn se­ries opener.

If the venue had been Cape Town rather than Twick­en­ham you can bet your bot­tom dol­lar that the penalty fol­low­ing Far­rell’s no arms high-shot on Spring­bok re­place­ment An­dre Ester­huizen would have been awarded. You can also rest as­sured that it would been a cer­tain yel­low card, and prob­a­bly a red.

Had the penalty been given, the chances of Han­dre Pol­lard kick­ing it were good, but af­ter the ref­eree had watched the big screen he ruled that the footage ex­on­er­ated the Eng­land fly half and co-cap­tain, and blew for full-time. It meant that rather than win­ning the game by a point, the home side might have lost it by two.

Gard­ner said: “It’s not a clear shoul­der to me – and there’s enough of a wrap on the far side to be a fair tackle.”

Oth­ers, and not just South Africans, would have ar­gued oth­er­wise – in­clud­ing the ref­er­ees in the English Premier­ship and Euro­pean Cup who have ad­hered this sea­son to a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy for any con­tact above the chest which rises to­wards the face.

Far­rell’s re­lief will have been shared by Ed­die Jones, be­cause be­fore a spir­ited sec­ond-half re­vival he and a near full house at Twick­en­ham had en­dured a dis­mal open­ing 40 min­utes from the men in white.

Af­ter­wards Jones stressed how pleased he was with Eng­land’s per­for­mance given that they had only had three full train­ing ses­sions be­fore fac­ing a South African side which had been to­gether for three months.

The flip side of that coin is that the head coach has had three years in which to get his ducks in a row in terms of se­lec­tion, and how he wants to pre­pare, and in the first half his side looked painfully de­fi­cient in both re­spects.

It was to Eng­land’s credit that they rode out the South African storm and came back with some gale force stuff of their own in the sec­ond half. How­ever, if the fin­ish­ing from the Spring­boks had not been so prof­li­gate in the first-half then it is un­likely they would have been close to mak­ing up the deficit, let alone win­ning the game.

In­stead, they turned around trail­ing only 8-6, and made al­most in­stant gains when Jones reshuf­fled his front row by bring­ing Ben Moon on at loose-head for his club­mate at Ex­eter, Alec Hep­burn.

The Eng­land scrum had been in dis­ar­ray be­fore the break and the ar­rival of Moon brought much-needed so­lid­ity, which was ce­mented when the coach even­tu­ally in­tro­duced Jamie Ge­orge for Hart­ley and Harry Wil­liams for Kyle Sinck­ler, who strug­gled to hold Steven Kit­shoff.

Hav­ing barely mounted an at­tack in the first-half Eng­land sud­denly grew in con­vic­tion, and rather than chasing the game started mak­ing the Spring­boks chase them. An El­liot Daly penalty from just in­side the South African half gave Eng­land the lead for the first time at 9-8 with 50 min­utes played.

It gave Eng­land the con­fi­dence boost they des­per­ately needed, and when a strong carry by Maro Itoje was fol­lowed by a Far­rell half break which was taken on by Henry Slade and Daly, the home side were fi­nally up and run­ning.

They had a chance to ex­tend their lead on the hour when War­ren White­ley was on the re­ceiv­ing end of a harsh line-out in­ter­fer­ence call, but Far­rell’s kick fell just short. When Pol­lard was given a sim­i­lar chance a few min­utes later af­ter Ge­orge Kruis failed to re­lease he hit the tar­get to give South Africa an 11-9 ad­van­tage.

Eng­land re­sponded with the ur­gency which had eluded them for much of the en­counter and for­ays from Ben Te’o and Daly kept the pres­sure on long enough for Teo’s loop­ing pass to find Jonny May with ten min­utes re­main­ing.

Although May’s pass to Brad Shields was at least a me­tre for­ward, it went un­de­tected, and the blind­side bat­tered to­wards the line be­fore spoil­ing it by throw­ing a Hail Mary pass to­wards the Spring­bok end rather than set­ting it up in the cor­ner.

It was Eng­land’s only gen­uine try-scor­ing chance of the game, but with eight min­utes left Moon got the an­gle on Wilco Louw at a scrum on the edge of the Bok 22, and as Eng­land trun­dled for­ward on a di­ag­o­nal Thomas du Toit was pe­nalised for col­laps­ing.

Far­rell showed he has ice­wa­ter in his veins as he kicked from the touch­line to give Eng­land their even­tual win­ning mar­gin.

South Africa re­fused to ac­cept they were done, and came storm­ing back. In a fren­zied cli­max to the match a long range Pol­lard penalty shaved the up­right, and then Damian de Al­lende cut clean through only to be felled by a su­perb Danny Care chase and tackle.

If any­one de­served to be on the win­ning side it was De Al­lende be­cause the big cen­tre caused Eng­land end­less grief, us­ing in­cred­i­bly nim­ble foot­work along with his power to con­sis­tently spear over the gain-line.

How­ever, de­spite the vis­i­tors mo­nop­o­lis­ing pos­ses­sion as the clock ticked down there was no way back .... and then came Far­rell’s ‘col­li­sion’ with Ester­huizen.

That Eng­land were only two points adrift at the in­ter­val was a trav­esty in terms of the run of play, with South Africa su­pe­rior in every de­part­ment other than the com­po­sure fin­ish off their chances.

The signs that Eng­land were in for a tax­ing af­ter­noon were writ large early on. Not only did Daly be­tray signs of his in­ex­pe­ri­ence at full-back by al­low­ing his novice South African op­po­site num­ber Damian Willemse to climb above him twice in the early stages, but the vis­it­ing pack posted no­tice of their power with a steam­ing line-out drive.

When Eng­land also started to leak penal­ties due to in­dis­ci­pline, and a Pol­lard strike from 40 me­tres put the Spring­boks 3-0 up, the fears that this ex­per­i­men­tal side did not have the physi-

Surge: Brad Shields charges for the cor­ner

In vain: Ben Te’o at­tempts to block Sibu­siso Nkosi but he goes on to score

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