South Africa 36-27 England, Johannesburg
South Africa power past battling England
June 16, 2012
Date/Time: Jun 16, 2012, 17:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
South Africa 36 - 27 England
Attendance: 60101  Half-time: 25 - 10
Tries: Alberts, BW du Plessis, Hougaard, Pietersen
Cons: M Steyn 2
Pens: M Steyn 3
Drops: M Steyn
Tries: Flood, Youngs 2
Cons: Flood 3
Pens: Flood 2
England's Mouritz Botha and South Africa's JP Pietersen contest the ball, South Africa v England, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 16 ,2012
England's Mouritz Botha and South Africa's JP Pietersen contest the ball
© Getty Images

England slipped to a series defeat in South Africa with a 36-27 in their second Test clash at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Story of the Game

  • Man of the Match: South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis delivered a barn-storming display that included a try and a memorable hand-off on England's Geoff Parling. A constant threat at the set-piece and in the loose, the Boks lost so much momentum when he was withdrawn.
  • Key Moment: The Boks deserved their victory but got a priceless foothold thanks to an error from the officials. Ref Alain Rolland and his assistant Steve Walsh failed to spot the ball was not touched by the England front row when fed into an early scrum. The ball went straight through the scrum and was pounced upon by South Africa's Willem Alberts who coasted in for the opening try when play should have been called back for another scrum.
  • Hero of the Game: England scrum-half Ben Youngs came into the game under pressure to perform and responded with one his most impressive displays that reaped two tries. His industry fired England's brave comeback and will have silenced his critics.
  • Villain of the Game: It is too easy to point at the officials especially when they make a high-profile error. There were also question marks about Bismarck du Plessis' try and an agonising delay before one of Ben Youngs' tries were confirmed. Forget the five-second rule for rucks - how about a one minute rule for TMOs?
  • Talking Point: England's battling display, along with the gutsy but fruitless displays from Ireland and Wales earlier in the day, suggest the gap in terms of ability between the two hemispheres is smaller than ever. Europe's finest appear more than able to push the world's best to the limit on their own patch. All we need now is an upset.
  • Play of the Game: South Africa's JP Pietersen punished one of several poor kicks from England by claiming it before carving his way through the visitors' defence on a 60m run. A couple of phases later he popped up on the wing to dot down for his side's final try that extinguished England's hopes of a dramatic turnaround.

Ben Youngs crossed twice as England put themselves in sight of an unlikely victory after trailing 28-10 but a late try from JP Pietersen ended the comeback. England paid the price for a poor start as Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Hougaard claimed early tries for the Springboks. The tourists' other points came from Toby Flood, who impressed on his recall with a first-half try and five successful goal kicks.

The defeat was England's ninth in succession to South Africa but, by preventing the landslide that looked possible early on, they can keep their heads high. It was always likely to be a tall order given the altitude of the Highveld and because the limited preparation evident in South Africa's performance last week was no longer a factor. But even though there was an element of controversy over both of South Africa's first two tries in the opening eight minutes, England's start was still a dismal and ultimately costly one.

They saw little of the ball in the opening three minutes while South Africa looked incisive, constantly crossing the gainline. Alberts made one good break before Bryan Habana found space on the left. Ben Morgan thwarted the winger but England made a costly error at the resulting scrum as the ball was allowed to run clean through the channel.

Alberts saw the loose ball roll out and even though there was debate over whether he could pick it up, the flanker gleefully gathered and darted over. England's problems increased just moments later as South Africa powered forward again and hooker Du Plessis barged his way through to spin and touch down. It was a close call as to whether he planted the ball over the line but a try was awarded after video adjudication and converted by Morne Steyn.

England finally registered with a Flood penalty but it came from a rare foray into the Springbok half and the hosts replied in kind. Morne Steyn added a penalty before Hougaard broke the line with some neat footwork to score a third. Steyn pushed the score out to 22-3.

England made the most of another rare opening to claim their first try midway through the first half. Youngs took a quick tap penalty and released Chris Ashton, who sent Flood clear. Flood converted his own try but it did not look like the start of a comeback as the Springboks again pushed them back and Morne Steyn added a long-range drop goal.

It could have got even worse for England as Pietersen failed to take a pass from Jean de Villiers with the try line at his mercy. Frans Steyn was allowed the chance to line up a penalty from inside his own half in the final minute of the half but his effort slipped narrowly wide.

South Africa looked to apply more pressure as they declined a kickable penalty early in the second half and looked for touch. Powerful charges from Alberts and Eben Etzebeth looked certain to yield another try but England somehow held out. They did not escape without damage as captain Chris Robshaw was penalised and Morne Steyn added another three points but England refused to lie down.

They not only earned some respite but benefited from a huge slice of luck in the 52nd minute as an overthrown Springbok lineout found its way into Youngs' hands. The scrum-half broke for the line and, despite being caught high by an Alberts tackle, managed to get the ball down for a try awarded after lengthy deliberation.

Flood's conversion brought the score to a more respectable 28-17 but Morne Steyn then helped himself to another penalty goal. England then, almost inconceivably, suddenly got themselves back within a converted try just after the hour.

The hosts switched off at the breakdown after a drive by substitute Alex Corbisiero and Youngs pinched the ball to dive through a gap for his second try. Flood added the extras and chipped further away at the lead with another penalty from just inside the Springboks' half.

England started to look like they believed they could win but South Africa found another gear when they needed it. After a useful spell of possession, they neatly worked the ball along the line and Pietersen flamboyantly dived over for the decisive try seven minutes from time.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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