Scoreline flatters England

2012-06-11 00:00

COACH Stuart Lancaster said his team could have beaten the Springboks, but the reality is that England were flattered by the 22-17 scoreline in the first Test at King’s Park on Saturday night.

The underdone Springboks were 22-12 ahead when the final hooter sounded and England finally threaded together a number of phases, Bok wing Bryan Habana made his only real error on a busy evening in going for an intercept, and wing Ben Foden scampered in for his team’s only try.

The final five-point losing margin will lift England for the second Test, but the Boks should have won this game more emphatically. Morné Steyn did score 17 points with a try and four penalties, but he missed three kicks at goal, while the Boks also foolishly ran a penalty from in front of the England posts when leading by only five points (11-6).

The Boks, in spite of problems at the breakdown where they frequently surrendered the initiative and possession, successfully kept England pinned in their own half for most of the Test. Only rarely did England enter the Boks quarter and it was usually to kick a penalty — flyhalf Owen Farrell booted four — before they returned to their own half.

The disappointingly ragged first half (6-6) was fairly even, but the improving Boks took charge in the third quarter as their forwards found the urgency and intensity that had been missing before the break.

It was expected that Meyer would instruct Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn to kick the leather off the ball, but the 44 000 spectators, relieved that the rain stayed away during the Test, were further lifted by the bright second-half showing when the Springboks moved the ball between rampaging forwards and backs.

A Habana and Jean de Villiers snipe down the left allowed Alberts and Jannie du Plessis to rumble on before Morné Steyn slipped over on the blindside (11-6).

Pienaar, on for Hougaard after 16 minutes, brought some snap to the Boks’ backplay, Habana countered and De Villiers crashed over as the Boks led 16-6 after an hour.

Farrell and Steyn both kicked a brace of penalties (22-12) before Foden’s last hurrah ended the contest.

The Bok replacements — as Meyer promised — certainly played their part. Pienaar and Pat Lambie added some creativity to the backplay while prop Coenie Oosthuizen made a telling impact up front. Packing down first at tighthead — when Jannie du Plessis was in the blood-bin — he then switched to loosehead in place of Beast Mtawarira, and helped win the scrum penalty that took the Boks 10 points clear three minutes from the final whistle.

A couple of Bok lineouts did go astray on the night, but the debutant locks, Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, stood up strongly while even replacement Flip van der Merwe snatched a couple of late lineouts.

England forward coach Graham Rowntree conceded the Bok replacements had been influential.

“When they brought on the fresh cattle, those other big beasts, it made a difference and we will have to find ways to counter that,” he said.

It was the Boks’ eighth successive win against England. And, with the All Blacks dumping Ireland, the Wallabies beating Six Nations champions Wales and Argentina seeing off Italy, the southern hemisphere teams made a clean sweep of the weekend internationals.

Scorers:

South Africa 22 – Tries by Jean de Villiers and Morné Steyn. Four penalties by Morné Steyn.

England 17 – Try by Ben Foden. Four penalties by Owen Farrell.

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