Bat­tling Eng­land earn re­demp­tion in face of an on­slaught

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Mick Cleary RUGBY UNION COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Twick­en­ham

Re­demp­tion day for Eng­land, af­fir­ma­tion time for Ed­die Jones. Where oth­ers doubted, Eng­land be­lieved, ig­nit­ing a bon­fire of their crit­ics’ pre­con­cep­tions to pre­vail against all odds.

Eng­land even sur­vived a fi­nal-sec­ond TMO de­ci­sion as a bone-crunch­ing Owen Far­rell tackle on An­dre Ester­huizen was deemed le­git­i­mate. It was a for­tu­nate es­cape. In the cur­rent cli­mate, it might even have been push­ing a red card. Eng­land had suf­fered ill for­tune through in­jury. Per­haps their luck is chang­ing. Per­haps the gods are with them again.

A nor­mally con­tained Jones punched the air, as well he might, at the fi­nal whis­tle. The crowd erupted. It was a fa­mous vic­tory, one that takes all the pres­sure off Jones and his Eng­land team. It was not ac­com­plished, it was against the grain, but the record books do not lie. Eng­land have knocked over – just – one of the form sides in world rugby. There were a lot of boots lined up to plant on Jones’s back­side. That pan­tomime sideshow is now over.

There is a lot spo­ken about per­for­mance be­ing paramount. This match knocked such guff into a cocked hat. Eng­land needed a vic­tory, for their own self-as­sur­ance, for a smidgen of mo­men­tum and for the con­tin­u­ing faith of their sup­port­ers. Such a win with an un­der-strength team bodes well for their World Cup hopes. It was ugly of style, but a thing of beauty in out­come. Let no one claim that this makes Eng­land world beat­ers against all­com­ers, as Clive Wood­ward’s team were in the run-up to Aus­tralia in 2003.

Jones’s team do not have that au­thor­ity or swag­ger. But af­ter five de­feats in the past six Tests com­ing into this match, they are back in the ball game. That is all. But for now, that is enough.

There are games when mus­cle and bone can be trumped by heart and soul. This was one of them. South African might and main had Eng­land in all sorts of prob­lems in the first half, yet they en­dured. They had trust in each other and they had trust in the cause. It was not pretty, it was not a sweep­ing, flu­ent Eng­land per­for­mance, and the All Blacks will not be toss­ing and turn­ing un­easily in their beds as they con­tem­plate next Satur­day’s en­counter.

Eng­land were poor through the first half, un­able to get even as much as a toe into their op­po­nents’ 22. New Zealand would have put them away on such a piti­ful English out­put.

They re­ally ought to have been holed below the plumb line, drown­ing as a sea of green shirts swept over them. But they held firm. It was a Rorke’s Drift rear­guard ac­tion, full of char­ac­ter and dogged be­lief. It was enough to rouse the Twick­en­ham crowd. They de­serve their mo­ment of in­dul­gence, for these have been un­set­tling times. Jones has al­ways in­sisted there is much work to be done. And he does have half a dozen front­line op­er­a­tors to re­turn.

South Africa will rue their lax­ity in the first half. They had an over­whelm­ing ad­van­tage in ter­ri­tory (78 per cent) and pos­ses­sion (67 per cent), yet they could not make it count. They had two promis­ing po­si­tions near Eng­land’s line yet twice over-threw.

Yet Eng­land were un­der the pump. Eng­land needed to neu­tralise South Africa’s power game. What they did not need to do in those early stages was to con­cede penalty af­ter penalty. It was a re­flec­tion of the pres­sure they were un­der. Eng­land had half a dozen penal­ties against them within the open­ing quar­ter, Maro Itoje re­spon­si­ble for three of them, and he was dis­patched to the sin­bin in the 16th minute. Some­how Eng­land clung on, scrab­bling and re­sist­ing as best they could.

There was a sense of in­evitabil­ity build­ing through the first half. Damian de Al­lende was a con­stant worry for the English de­fence and it was from one trade­mark run in the 33rd minute that the Spring­boks even­tu­ally cracked it, mov­ing the ball right from the ini­tial in­cur­sion to where wing S’bu Nkosi was able to skip round Jonny May to touch down.

Some­how Eng­land man­aged to hang in there, Far­rell’s sec­ond penalty of the af­ter­noon en­abling them to go into the in­ter­val only 8-6 adrift. Eng­land had been on their up­pers, the op­po­si­tion 22-me­tre area no more than a speck on the hori­zon.

Yet they did not roll out the white flag. There was a blink of dis­be­lief when look­ing at the score­board in the 51st minute as El­liot Daly’s long-range ef­fort edged Eng­land in front. Sud­denly there was life, sud­denly there was hope. Eng­land’s at­tack be­gan to

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