South Africa 36-27 England, Johannesburg
Lancaster rues England's slow start
June 16, 2012
Toby Flood went over for England but it was not enough © Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster was heartened by England's second-half performance against the Springboks but admits the first 18 minutes of the match dealt his side a near fatal blow.
England conceded three tries in the first quarter of the match to give the Boks what turned out to be a lead enough for victory. But England rallied in the second-half and reduced the deficit to 31-27 only for JP Pietersen's late score to put the game beyond Lancaster's side's grasp.
England now travel to Port Elizabeth ahead of the third Test next weekend looking to get a win under their belts and Lancaster will look for his side to start the game better than they did today.
"Giving South Africa such a start put us under huge pressure but I am delighted with the boys in the second half and the pride in coming back to get the score back to 31-27," Lancaster said. "We were then pushing down the right wing and it is small margins.
"We recognise we can't start slowly that but there is a lot to take from it, a lot of positives. As we said at the outset, it is about developing experiences and learning and this group is certainly doing that. The players that came off the bench made a difference and we played some good stuff in the second half, no doubt about it. But we left ourselves too much to do."
There was an element of controversy over both of South Africa's opening two tries, which came inside the first eight minutes, but England did not make much of it. Alberts ran over after the ball rolled straight through a scrum without touching a front rower while it needed lengthy video deliberation to determination if Du Plessis' effort was over the line.
Forwards coach Graham Rowntree said: "At that first scrum, I have never seen that before. We have scrummed well all week - we had to after last week - and I am going to have to have a look again at the tape to see where that ball rolled out, because it didn't look right to me. But I can't say any more. I need to see the tape again before I comment."
Ben Youngs was arguably England's stand out player and he conceded that their poor start "killed" any hopes of an unlikely win. "The first 20 mins killed us unfortunately and we were always playing catch-up," Youngs told Sky Sports. "Great spirit by the boys but at the end it didn't account for much.
JP Pietersen's effort killed off England's hopes of an upset © PA Photos
"Now we've lost the series but we've got one more big effort next week. It was a great effort and great heart from the boys but we can't give them the first 20 minutes like that and be playing catch-up in a game like this."
The result means that Heyneke Meyer has started his tenure in charge of the Springboks with a series win over England and he paid tribute to the losing side. "I think England played well," Meyer said. "It was a gutsy performance coming back like that, especially at altitude.
"I think they can be proud of themselves. In the first half we played Super Rugby rugby, and it was great to watch. But to put two performances like that together for 80 minutes is tough.
"You can't just go out and score tries, this is Test match rugby and you have to grind it out. We will learn a lot from games like that. I watched the Six Nations and could see a lot of energy coming into the England team. There is a lot of guts and character in the team and that is the one thing you can't teach. They will definitely go places if they keep their feet on the ground."
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