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Nigel Owens reckons England were ‘fortunate’ at scrum time against South Africa

Nigel Owens England

Nigel Owens believes England were lucky to have had a couple of scrums go their way against South Africa on Saturday.

England’s young front row fared well against the Springboks’ scrum on Saturday, as the hosts conceded three penalties at scrum time, compared to the visitor’s two.

While the Springboks’ did, just about, get the upper hand in the scrum according to referee Andrew Brace, Owens believes that England should have been penalised more often.

Former international referee Owens was writing in his column for The Telegraph and identified two incidents where he feels that South Africa were incorrectly punished.

Nigel Owens on England’s scrum battle with South Africa.

“It was clear that England wanted to box clever and I thought they were slightly fortunate,” Owens wrote.

“At the first, Andrew Brace awarded them a free kick for an early engagement. I thought it was difficult to say for sure that South Africa were leaning in any more than England were.

“Later on, when the Springboks conceded another penalty at a put-in five metres from the England try-line, I thought they were hard done by. To me, it was Bevan Rodd that clearly hinged and pulled the scrum down rather than Ox Nche.

“A good indication for anyone watching is when you see the loosehead prop’s elbow pointing to the ground, and they are pulling their opposite man’s jersey, it is quite clear that they are causing the collapse.”

South Africa end a mixed year with their number one ranking intact.

The Springboks can be very happy with certain parts of their season, as they won their test series with the British and Irish Lions and claimed a victory against the All Blacks, but it wasn’t plain sailing for the world champions.

South Africa won eight and lost five of their 13 test matches this year, and finished third in the Rugby Championship after two consecutive losses to Australia and a narrow loss to New Zealand.

They came very close to winning all three of their matches in the Autumn Nations Series, but a late Marcus Smith penalty saw England beat them by a point, in the fourth game this year that South Africa lost by five points or less.

On only one occasion did they lose by more than a score this year – their second test with Australia ended 30-17 in favour of the Wallabies – but they will be concerned by their tendency to lose close fought games.

The Springboks do end 2021 with their number one ranking intact, but the healthy buffer they had between themselves and second place at the start of the year has been greatly reduced.

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