England 27-26 South Africa: Marcus Smith kicks late penalty as Eddie Jones’ men defeat world champions in enthralling Test at Twickenham
- England avenge defeat in 2019 Rugby World Cup final with thrilling win
- Marcus Smith kicks late penalty to secure England’s third win of the autumn
- Manu Tuilagi and Freddie Steward scored first half tries to put England 14-3 up
- Springboks came back in the second half and led 26-24 with a minute left
Marcus Smith kept his nerve to land a last-gasp penalty as England avenged their 2019 World Cup final defeat by toppling South Africa 28-27 in an enthralling climax to the autumn.
Smith kicked the decisive points with just over a minute left to prevent the Springboks from completing a comeback victory on an afternoon of high drama at Twickenham.
Eddie Jones’ men overcame the early loss of Manu Tuilagi, who was injured while in the act of scoring the opening try, to build a 17-6 lead with the outstanding Freddie Steward also crossing.
Marcus Smith kicked the crucial penalty as England defeat South Africa 27-26 on Saturday
South Africa showed resilience in the face of the storm, doggedly defending their line and relying on Handre Pollard’s boot knowing they had won their last three games despite trailing at half-time.
At times England looked willing victims as they gave away penalty after penalty and with their lead eroded by Pollard, they seemed increasingly powerless to stop the momentum shift.
For much of the second half they were entrenched inside their 22, fighting hard for every yard and Pollard eventually kicked the Springboks ahead in the 64th minute.
With England trailing 26-24 late in the second half, Smith held his nerve to win the game
The England fly-half slotted the crucial penalty right through the posts to secure a famous win
Defences had reigned but in the space of four minutes they were momentarily shredded as Raffi Quirke and Makazole Mapimpi exchanged slick tries to usher in a nerve shredding final 10 minutes.
Francois Steyn booted a penalty but South Africa saw captain Siya Kolisi sent to the sin-bin for the last five minutes and England pounced through 22-year-old fly-half Smith when the Springboks were penalised for going off their feet.
For all the pre-match focus on the threat coming from the world champions’ set-piece they came off worse at two scrums and then a line-out, providing an early platform for England to attack.
Manu Tuilagi opened the scoring for England early on as he touched down in the corner
The Sale centre, however, injured his hamstring in the process and left the field soon afterward
Freddie Steward scored his second try in as many Tests as he extended England’s lead to 14-3
Smith and Henry Slade, who pushed Steward hard for the man of the match award, created the space for Tuilagi to charge into the corner but it was a bitter-sweet moment as the Sale centre was injured and he hobbled off, his afternoon over.
Jonny May invited pressure on to his team by making two glaring mistakes close to his line, but once the danger has been dealt with England used a scrum to launch a fresh attack with Slade floating the ball long to Max Malins.
Using his speed, Malins almost reached the line and once May had carried, Ben Youngs sent Steward over from short range with two tacklers unable to stop his powerful surge.
Three penalties from Pollard kept South Africa in the hunt and they were encouraged by England’s lapses in discipline as the lead deteriorated to just 17-12 as the half-hour mark passed.
Raffi Quirke scored his first England try to put the host ahead with 15 minutes left
England’s celebrations didn’t last long as the Springboks hit back almost immediately
Makazole Mapimpi responded to Quirke’s score to put South Africa ahead with a late try
But only the hosts posed a threat with the ball in hand as they threatened in the 22 time and again with Slade and Malins influential.
Repeated interventions from referee Andrew Brace sent them scuttling backwards, however, and when Smith shanked a drop-goal another attack had amounted to nothing.
Four minutes into the second half the Bomb Squad came on and for the first time South Africa ignited as Kolisi marauded down the touchline.
The tables were being turned as Pollard missed the posts twice and England conceded scrum penalties, but the Springboks now had the wind between their sails.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi was sent to the sin bin for the last five minutes
Pollard successfully readjusted his sights to slash the deficit to two points and only desperate defending over the line prevented South Africa’s increasingly influential maul from breaching the whitewash.
The Springboks took the lead for the first time through Pollard but England’s midfield conjured a moment of magic when Slade put Joe Marchant through a gap and Quirke was on hand to take the scoring pass.
Will Stuart was sin-binned for going in at the side and South Africa constructed a slick try finished by Makazole Mapimpi.
Steyn was on target to put the tourists back in front but with Kolisi off, England rallied heroically with Smith landing the killer blow.