England have lost their three-Test series against the Springboks after going down to a second defeat in as many weeks.
Eddie Jones’ men led 12-0 after 20 minutes thanks to two quick tries from Mike Brown and Jonny May, but South Africa responded well in Bloemfontein and ground out an impressive 23-12 victory.
Tempers flared throughout and England may live to rue their discipline for a second week running, with scuffles at almost every breakdown restricting the fluidity of the game and ultimately putting South Africa on the front foot to close out the series.
THE PERFECT START
England started with intent, aiming to spread the ball wide to feed the pace on the wings, which proved successful instantly.
England sent the ball through the hands and May drew the last defender to put Brown in down the left to get his second try in the series after dotting down last week.
Farrell converted to give England the perfect start and it only got better.
May instantly added another try following some quick hands and juggling in midfield, displaying his electric pace down the right and his power by nudging off the last tackler to touch down in the corner.
A SIMILAR STORY
South Africa responded well to stem the English tide and were rewarded for their pressure, as Duane Vermeulen muscled his way over after stepping inside and holding off two defenders.
Handre Pollard converted to cut the gap to five points, before adding a penalty shortly after to put the Springboks right back in it.
The fly-half then put the Springboks in the lead with only a minute left of the first half, nailing a long-range penalty to give the hosts the edge going into the break.
The Boks continued their momentum into the second half, dominating the scrum to earn a penalty try after 50 minutes and put daylight between the teams.
Brad Shields looked to have got one back on his first start for England, but the TMO showed the ball knocked out of his grasp as the tryline beckoned.
But Pollard once more added another three points from the tee to put the game beyond England.
Frustrated with the loss – England’s fifth Test defeat in a row – Ben Youngs gave an abrupt interview on the pitch.
Youngs said: “We’re really disappointed, we’ve lost the series, we’re gutted about that, we’ll work hard this week and look forward to getting it right next week.”
Farrell said: “We lost momentum in that second half, we’ll have to look back at it and see where we went wrong.
“There were some big moments in that game where we weren’t composed enough.
“We want to learn our lessons now, I know 2019 is part of the bigger picture but we want to win now, we’ll have to regroup next week.”
Eddie Jones said: “Again it was pretty much like last week, we had a good first 20 minutes and played some superb rugby.
“Then we just don’t handle the key moments of the game. These periods are tough and we’re doing everything we can to work it out, and we’ll get there – that might be next week.
“They were different sorts of penalties this week, a lot of set-piece penalties, we gave a lot of penalties in open play last week, so we’re a bit like a broken car at the moment – we fix something then something else breaks.
“Sometimes you go through these periods, we’re all hurting, we’ve just got to keep at it and find the solution.”