Fully-fo­cused Far­rell turns his steely glare to­wards All Blacks

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RUGBY UNION - Dave Craven AT TWICK­EN­HAM ■ Email: dave.craven@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port

It was a pretty big col­li­sion. It was tough to get my arms around him. Owen Far­rell gives his take on THAT tackle on South Africa’s An­dre Ester­huizen.

ENG­LAND 12 SOUTH AFRICA 11 AU­TUMN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL

WHEN IT comes to rugby, Eng­land’s Owen Far­rell is se­ri­ous. Al­ways. So his re­ply was never likely to be tongue-in-cheek.

Af­ter Satur­day’s ab­sorb­ing Test match ev­ery­one wanted to ask the British Lion one ques­tion if noth­ing else.

Strangely, it was not about his ice-cool de­meanour as he suc­cess­fully slot­ted a dif­fi­cult late penalty to seal his side a fa­mous vic­tory. That hap­pens time and time again.

Nor was it to quarry for in­for­ma­tion about his of­fi­cial new co-cap­taincy ar­range­ment with reg­u­lar cap­tain Dy­lan Hart­ley; un­of­fi­cially they have been shar­ing those du­ties for years.

No. Of course, the only line of in­quiry any­one was in­ter­ested in was whether Far­rell was wor­ried when – with most of his team­mates cel­e­brat­ing think­ing this un­bear­ably tense con­test was al­ready over – ref­eree An­gus Gard­ner sought the ad­vice of TMO Olly Hodges about the Eng­land fly­half ’s shud­der­ing chal­lenge on An­dre Ester­huizen.

It was a ‘no-arms’ tackle and, in light of the sport’s cur­rent clam­p­down on dan­ger­ous play, it seemed cer­tain the of­fi­cials would de­cide on a penalty against the hosts who had fought valiantly to some­how gain a 12-11 lead.

Springboks’ Han­dre Pol­lard had seen one long-range penalty ag­o­nis­ingly shave the wrong side of a post in the 75th minute; you sensed, for all its dif­fi­culty, the fly-half would not miss again.

How­ever, as Far­rell and all of Twick­en­ham held its breath for what must have seemed an eter­nity, the de­ci­sion came back that the chal­lenge was, in fact, le­gal.

“It was tough to get my arms around him,” ex­plained the 27-year-old af­ter­wards. “He (the ref­eree) said I tried to.” One in­quisi­tor asked “Did you?”

Far­rell turned to pick him out at the back of the throng and, with the steely glare that has be­come one of his trade­marks, replied: “Yes. I try ev­ery time.”

That is without ques­tion; Far­rell prides him­self on his de­fen­sive qual­ity and ap­petite as much as his kick­ing qual­ity.

That said, in the afore­men­tioned cur­rent cli­mate, Eng­land were for­tu­nate to not con­cede a penalty.

Far­rell ad­mit­ted he was con­cerned.

“When­ever any­body goes to the big screen to the TMO and slows it down like they did do then of course I was wor­ried but, thank­fully, it went our way,” he said.

“It was a pretty big col­li­sion. It was tough to get my arms around him.”

Far­rell had been on the end of a seis­mic hit from the 17 stone re­place­ment cen­tre be­fore­hand.

“Yes, he got me ear­lier,” said the Sara­cens star.

“It wasn’t pay­back. He lined me up from about 30 me­tres. I had to try and tackle him.

“It would have been dis­ap­point­ing if it had been dif­fer­ent (late loss) but the main thing that has come out of it is how tough we were in stay­ing in the game and stick­ing in it in that first half.

“To go in two points down was an achieve­ment with how much ball and ter­ri­tory they had. Sec­ond half we hoped we would get our chances and we did. We prob­a­bly left a cou­ple out there.”

In­jury-rav­aged Eng­land – un­der pres­sure hav­ing lost five of their last six Tests – trailed just 8-6 at the break de­spite be­ing ut­terly over­run at times and starved of pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory.

They con­ceded just one try, though, to Sbu Nkosi and showed their spirit by cop­ing hand­somely with the loss of Maro Itoje to a 16th-minute yel­low-card.

Not only did they pro­tect their line in the en­su­ing 10 min­utes but, with the first of Far­rell’s three penal­ties, they also lev­elled the game at 3-3.

In the sec­ond pe­riod, im­pres­sive Eng­land – with a raft of rook­ies in their for­wards – sorted their scrum is­sues and grew in con­fi­dence.

El­liot Daly put them in front with a huge 51st-minute penalty and, though Pol­lard replied, Far­rell re­gained the lead in the 73rd minute af­ter the home pack made the Springboks scrum dis­in­te­grate near their own line.

Next up it is New Zea­land on Satur­day. They have not played the world cham­pi­ons since 2014 so it has been a long time com­ing.

Far­rell, mak­ing the most of his chance in his pre­ferred slot of fly­half, will rel­ish the prospect.

He was part of the British Lions team that won in Welling­ton last year but he said: “I’ll prob­a­bly look at more re­cent games than that. It’s a dif­fer­ent team.

“We’ve moved a long way since then and they’d hope that they’ve moved a long way since 2017.

“You’ve got to look a bit more re­cent. The main thing is that I’m sure they are go­ing to come up with a plan. We have to be ex­cited for what’s com­ing but at the same time make sure we’re ready for any­thing. Go in with clear heads and re­ally look for­ward to it.”

PIC­TURES: ADAM DAVY/PA.

HARD- HIT­TING: Owen Far­rell tack­les South Africa’s An­dre Ester­huizen duir­ing Satur­day’s bru­tal Au­tumn In­ter­na­tional Test at Twick­en­ham, which the hosts won 12-11. In­set, Far­rell is con­grat­u­lated by team-mate Henry Slade.

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