England head coach Eddie Jones can finally breathe a sigh of relief after his charges salvaged some pride at the DHL Newlands in Cape Town.
The first two Tests of this South African Tour saw England fall away after two early, significant leads. A continuing annus horribilis and Ben Youngs’ interview troubles in the wake of last week’s defeat indicated that the England camp were on the verge of panic.
Though the Series was already won by South Africa, a win in today’s third and final Test was imperative.
The start to this third Test was much less dramatic than the ones that had proceeded it. Jonny May tried his best to replicate his attacking threat on the right wing, but an Owen Farrell penalty ten minutes in was the only score for much of the half until just before the break.
Farrell put another penalty between the posts on the 39′ mark, and despite Elton Jantjies immediately responding in kind, England had their first half time lead of the Series, at 6-3.
A notable development was that England had reduced the number of errors and penalties that had so severely derailed them in the previous two Tests.
A 40 yard kick from Farrell early after the restart extended England’s lead, but Rassie Erasmus’ side were about to spring into life.
In the 46th, from a central scrum 10 meters out, a pass to Warrick Gelant saw the fullback send a wonderful grubber kick through the English defence on the left for Jesse Kriel to go over for the first try of the match. A conversion from Jantjies put the Springboks in the lead for the first time, at 10-9.
Substitute Mark Wilson did a great job of chasing down a kickout from Jantjies deep in the Springboks half, leading to an England attack that saw an offside given. Farrell dispatched the kick from the left for a five point lead.
Much to Stuart Barnes’ approval, the Boks brought on Handre Pollard just before the hour mark for the struggling Jantjies.
Despite his arrival, England were the ones consistently with the possession in the opposing half, although a failed drop goal attempt briefly stalled their momentum.
The hosts’ scrummaging was shown up yet again with ten minutes to go, with their opponents making short work of them after making slight inroads into the English half.
Just after the subsequent lineout, Danny Cipriani, starting his first test for England since 2008, finally made his present known, firing a gorgeous kick to the far right corner, with ‘man of the match’ Jonny May deservedly and just about going over. Farrell’s fine kick from the sideline boosted the lead to 12 points with four minutes left.
South Africa were racking up the penalties, and the Saracens man took advantage one last time for a final scoreline of 25-10 in favour of the visitors.