Thursday 22 March 2018

England draw the positives

South Africa 14

England 14

England ended their tour on a positive note as they fought back to claim a draw in the third Test. Danny Care gave them an early lead by marking his international return with a try at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium but JP Pietersen looked to have given the Springboks a decisive edge just after the hour.

England did not wilt and Owen Farrell's second penalty of a disjointed and scrappy contest secured a draw. Farrell had a late chance to win it but sliced a drop-goal attempt horribly wide.

But after defeats in Durban and Johannesburg -- and nine in succession to the Springboks -- England will have been happy to settle for only the second draw between the sides.

England went ahead with a Toby Flood penalty in the second minute but the fly-half needed treatment after a heavy collision moments later and struggled to continue. There was a lengthy delay after the tourists were awarded another penalty as Flood readied himself and his effort dropped wide.

Morne Steyn levelled but England claimed the first try after a kick from the Springbok fly-half in open play was charged down by Tom Palmer. Tom Johnson was halted just short of the line but the ball was quickly recycled for Care to crash over. Flood was unable to convert and, still not right, was replaced by Farrell soon after.

South Africa clawed back at England's lead and forced their way in front as Steyn landed two of the three penalty attempts he was allowed to line up in quick succession.

Farrell quickly seized upon a lose ball and punted long down field as England reached the break trailing 9-8. When Chris Ashton crashed into Gio Aplon, Farrell calmly clipped the ball between the posts from the penalty.

The tourists' indiscipline did cost them as Dylan Hartley, standing in as captain for the injured Chris Robshaw, was sinbinned after an offence in the ruck in the 51st minute.

South Africa did not capitalise while Hartley was off the field but, aside from a brief Ben Foden burst, they gained a measure of control. That paid off soon after Hartley's return.

Cole put in a big hit on Aplon to stop the full-back just short of the line but England could not hold out much longer.

They were still stretched when Ruan Pienaar spun out a fine pass for Pietersen, scorer of the decisive try in the second Test, and the winger went around the outside and touch down. With Steyn missing the conversion, England were not out of touch and mounted a spirited response with Manu Tuilagi forcing his way forward.

They had to settle for a penalty but Farrell kept his composure and drilled between the posts to level the score.

Steyn failed with a drop-goal attempt as time ticked away and Farrell sliced his effort too low soon after.

Scorers -- South Africa: Pietersen try; Steyn 3 pens. England: Care try; Farrell 3 pens.

South Africa: Aplon, Pietersen, de Villiers, Olivier, Habana, M. Steyn, Hougaard Pienaar 49), Mtawarira, B. du Plessis (Strauss 63), J. du Plessis Kruger 75), Etzebeth (van der Merwe 54), J. Kruger, Coetzee, Potgieter (Kankowski 54), Spies.

England: Goode, Ashton, Joseph Barritt 63), Tuilagi, Foden, Flood, Care, Marler, Hartley, Cole, Palmer (Botha 66), Parling, Johnson (Dowson 66), Haskell, Waldrom.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia).

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