South Africa 22-17 England, Durban
Springboks outmuscle England in Durban
June 9, 2012
Date/Time: Jun 9, 2012, 17:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
South Africa 22 - 17 England
Attendance: 43052  Half-time: 6 - 6
Tries: de Villiers, M Steyn
Pens: M Steyn 4
Tries: Foden
Pens: Farrell 4
England's Chris Ashton is snared by South Africa's Francois Hougaard, South Africa v England, Kings Park, Durban, South Africa, June 9, 2012
England's Chris Ashton is snared by South Africa's Francois Hougaard during their clash at Kings Park
© PA Photos

South Africa battled to a 22-17 victory over England in their clash at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

Story of the Game

  • Man of the Match: Springboks centre Jean de Villiers was handed the captaincy for this series and responded with a superb showing in the first Test. Rock solid in defence and an inspirational in attack, his outstanding display was capped with a crucial try.
  • Key Moment: Heyneke Meyer's half-time talk inspired a significant improvement from the Springboks who dominated their rivals after the break and took control of the game in the process.
  • Hero of the Game: England's Tom Johnson enjoyed an eye-catching debut and was at the heart of his side's efforts to unsettle the hosts but his efforts were surpassed by the industrious Willem Alberts who influence from the Springboks' back-row looks set to extend well beyond this clash.
  • Villain of the Game: England's halfback pairing of Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs failed to provide the spark that would have seen England capitalise on the efforts of their forward pack. Expect changes for the second Test after Toby Flood provided a bit of go-forward in a cameo off the bench.
  • Talking Point: England can lay claim to the strongest showing among the Home Nations this weekend and will be rightly confident of pushing the Boks all the way again in their clash in Johannesburg next weekend.
  • Play of the Game: A vicious hand-off from England's Manu Tuilagi on South Africa's Jean de Villiers in the second half soon prompted a venomous response from the hosts that saw the Boks skipper break down the touchline in a move that ended with Morne Steyn crossing for the opening try of the game. England's resolve was broken and South Africa's belief rocketed.

Morne Steyn and Jean de Villiers touched down as a second-half South African barrage finally broke England's resistance. England met the Springboks challenge head on at Kings Park and were level at 6-6 at half-time after Owen Farrell and Steyn traded penalties.

South Africa began to gain the upper hand after the break as Steyn and captain De Villiers broke through and the hosts held on despite two more Farrell penalties applying pressure. Ben Foden claimed a late England consolation after the final hooter and head coach Stuart Lancaster will take some heart from the fighting display of his players.

Despite that, what was England's eighth successive Test loss to the Springboks still leaves them facing an uphill fight to win their first three-match series in South Africa. The scoreline might have been close but the normally reliable Steyn, who still scored 17 of his side's points, did miss two conversions and a penalty.

Heavy rain eased before kick-off but the surface remained slick. The Springboks looked to impose themselves early on with some powerful hits and the more expansive handling of the two sides.

Bryan Habana gave England an early warning as he claimed a high kick from scrum-half Ben Youngs and weaved his way through several failed tackles before being halted on halfway. But England also went hard into their tackles and were handed the chance to open the scoring when Eben Etzebeth, one of three debutants for the hosts, was penalised.

Farrell drilled a long-range effort between the posts and the fly-half had an opportunity to open up the Springboks defence soon after but his delicate kick was not read by any team-mates. South Africa pulled themselves level with a Steyn penalty after Youngs, who was given a thorough examination throughout, lost possession and England were caught offside.

England survived a scare after Francois Hougaard found a gap and almost put Pierre Spies over when Manu Tuilagi produced a fine tackle to block the Springboks number eight on the line. The tourists relieved the pressure after earning a penalty inside their own half and managed to claim three more points when a South African offside allowed Farrell another shot at goal. But it was a penalty soon cancelled out by Steyn after another offside decision.

Mike Brown sparked an England attack when he broke a tackle from Habana and right wing Chris Ashton side-stepped Zane Kirchner to race clear. It took a fine recovering tackle from Hougaard to deny him. Steyn had a chance to put South Africa ahead from wide on the left in the closing seconds of the first half but dragged his attempt wide.

England carried their fighting spirit into the second half and Tuilagi barged through an attempted tackle from De Villiers. But it was South Africa who took a grip on the game by claiming the opening try in the 48th minute.

Prop Jannie du Plessis and De Villiers were both stopped inches short of the line before the ball was spun out left for Steyn to crash over. That proved the start of prolonged spell of South African pressure.

England initially held firm, albeit at a price as Durban-born centre Brad Barritt was forced off with a head injury. JP Pietersen almost found a way through on the left but was pushed into touch by Brown, an act the South Africa wing took exception to by sparking a minor fracas.

South Africa continued to pour forward with Habana proving a particularly tricky customer. Eventually England had to crack and it was De Villiers who broke through for a second try on the hour as he raced onto a Pietersen pass and powered through a weak Brown tackle.

After another missed goal attempt by Steyn, England - not disheartened - powered forward in an attempt to find a way back into the game with Foden and Ashton finding gaps. A kick over the top by Farrell looked to have proved fruitless but England came away with a penalty and the fly-half reduced the arrears to 16-9.

Farrell then cut that by another three points with just under 15 minutes remaining after another South African indiscretion. The Springboks regrouped and extended their lead a little further when an England offside presented Steyn with a kickable penalty.

He added another in the closing moments as England ran out of steam but they claimed a consolation after the final hooter when Foden dived over in the corner.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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