England 13-27 South Africa: Lacklustre hosts fail to mount comeback despite Springboks red card
Despite facing 14 men for the final 20 minutes, after South Africa tighthead Thomas du Toit's red card, England succumbed to defeat at Twickenham; Kurt-Lee Arendse and Eben Etzebeth scored tries for the Springboks; England's Tom Curry was sin-binned during a period SA added 10 points
By Michael Cantillon at Twickenham
Last Updated: 26/11/22 8:28pm
A lacklustre England finished their autumn in disappointing fashion, as they failed to mount a credible comeback against 14-man South Africa in a 27-13 defeat at Twickenham following prop Thomas du Toit's red card.
Replacement tighthead Du Toit was sent off just past the hour mark for connecting with the head of hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie with a tucked arm, but the Springboks had already built a healthy lead by that point, with England struggling in most facets.
England 13-27 South Africa - Score summary
England - Tries: Slade (72). Cons: Farrell (73). Pens: Farrell (14, 46). Yellow card: Curry (49).
South Africa - Tries: Arendse (33), Etzebeth (50). Cons: De Klerk (51). Pens: De Klerk (19, 40+1, 58). Drop-goal: Willemse (31, 42). Red card: Du Toit (61).
A bitty and confrontational contest saw wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and lock Eben Etzebeth score tries for the visitors, with out-half Damian Willemse adding two drop-goals, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk three penalties and a conversion.
Owen Farrell registered two penalties for England, but missed two further straightforward efforts, while back-row Tom Curry was sin-binned in the second half - an expensive period during which the Test was taken away from the hosts.
Destroyed at the scrum during the match, England were starved of possession and territory, and could only muster one try against 14 men in the final quarter, as centre Henry Slade got over.
For England, loosehead Mako Vunipola, wing Tommy Freeman, hooker Jamie George, back-row Alex Coles came into the starting line-up, with Ellis Genge, Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie moving to the bench. Vunipola's start was his first since the 2021 Six Nations. Centre Manu Tuilagi earned his 50th cap. Jack van Poortvliet was retained at scrum-half.
South Africa made four changes to the side that beat Italy, with experienced duo Makazole Mapimpi, Eben Etzebeth among those returning. Wing Mapimpi, lock Etzebeth, centre Jesse Kriel, No 8 Evan Roos came in to start in place of Cheslin Kolbe, Andre Esterhuizen, Salmaan Moerat, Jasper Wiese. Toulon's Kolbe, Harlequins' Esterhuizen, Montpellier's Cobus Reinach, Leicester's Wiese, Stade Francais' Vincent Koch were unavailable, having returned to their clubs.
Second row forwards Maro Itoje and Etzebeth gave an indication of the combative nature the rest of the Test would take by each producing early steals in contact within seconds of each other, but the first chance for points came South Africa's way after England loosehead Mako Vunipola was penalised for driving across the scrum.
De Klerk produced a poor strike well wide, though, and once openside Curry forced a breakdown penalty, and the Springboks defensive line were caught offside from a lineout, Farrell was handed his first kick, but shockingly hooked wide from just outside the 22 for one of the worst misses of his career.
England continued to attack, and when visiting tighthead Frans Malherbe was wrongly penalised for collapsing a scrum, Farrell was handed his second kicking opportunity from a not too dissimilar position to his opening miss, and this time struck true and calm between the posts for the lead.
A forward tip-on pass from Farrell as England attempted to attack from deep soon put the hosts under the cosh, though, handing South Africa a scrum just outside the 22.
Angry from what they felt was the misjustice of the previous scrum decision, South Africa scrummaged for a penalty, and though referee Angus Gardner appeared to mutter advantage and stick his arm out, he seemed to change his mind as De Klerk kicked ahead, to much confusion.
A penalty was forthcoming in the next play, as England blindside Alex Coles played No 8 Evan Roos around the neck, allowing De Klerk to level things from close range off the tee.
A needless tackle off the ball by South Africa flanker Franco Mostert on Farrell afforded the England skipper the chance to kick his side back in front, but much like his first attempt, he poorly hooked wide from an area he would almost always register points from.
England full-back Freddie Steward backed up the miss by kicking out on the full, and once South Africa mauled forward following the lineout, England were penalised for entry (Kyle Sinckler) and collapse (Coles).
The visitors kicked to the corner as they sought a try, but though they formed a 12-man maul, England somehow halted its movement. Play was brought back for an initial side-entry by second row Jonny Hill, however.
The Springboks kicked to the corner for a lineout once again, but off a cute move at the front where hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Etzebeth played a one-two before feeding a charging Siya Kolisi, Billy Vunipola did fantastically well to hold the player and ball up over the try-line.
Clearly enjoying the better of the play, South Africa's next attacking platform was thrown away after a costly removal of the break-foot at a scrum by Mbonambi, but past the half-hour, Willemse struck a crisp drop-goal for the lead.
Two minutes later, the away side struck for a marvellous counter-attacking try as rapid wing Arendse bamboozled Marcus Smith, jinking in and out, to sprint and leap into the corner, after Willemse and Willie le Roux had combined to attack from the edge of their own 22.
De Klerk missed the conversion, but Willemse and Arendse almost repeated the trick up the same right wing in the next meaningful attack, with Steward diving like a goalkeeper to block a kick ahead as a last-ditch defender.
Another scrum penalty saw the Boks kick to the corner again as they smelt blood, and once England were caught offside, Farrell was given a general team warning by referee Gardner.
This time, with the penalty more kickable, Kolisi and co chose to take the points on offer as De Klerk struck through for a 14-3 half-time lead.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Willemse added his second drop-goal for three more points after an effective counter-ruck on the England 22, before an almighty brawl broke out between both sets of players, with Itoje and Etzebeth at the heart of things.
With Eddie Jones having replaced his full front-row at the half-time break, England failed to take advantage of a Marvin Orie knock-on from the restart when they were penalised for an early scrum drive.
De Klerk was pinged for offside soon after, however, after Steward had done brilliantly to take a catch above his head, handing Farrell a penalty chance, which he took.
Senseless indiscipline from Hill to drag De Klerk up off the ground after the Boks scrum-half had been penalised for going off-feet following the restart, crucially saw a penalty in the England 22 reversed, and once the visitors kicked to the corner, Curry was sin-binned for another penalty close to the try-line.
Having kicked to the corner again, South Africa soon made Hill, Curry and England pay, as Etzebeth lunged over under the posts for their second try, and a commanding 24-6 lead, after centre Damian de Allende had been stopped just short.
On second viewing, the try should not have stood, however, as replays showed Etzebeth had recovered and grounded the loose ball having never returned to his feet.
A South Africa scrum penalty against the head for Will Stuart losing his bind, and No 8 Vunipola knocking on at the back of the next set-piece wrecked the hosts' next two attacks, while yet another scrum penalty handed De Klerk a kick from halfway, which the half-back's left boot landed with aplomb.
Curry returned from his yellow card with England having conceded an insurmountable 10 points - and that from a position of already being 11 behind - but 25 seconds past the hour mark Du Toit was sent from the field, after a straightforward red card decision for clobbering into the head of Cowan-Dickie with a tucked arm.
The first five-metre lineout following the decision saw Mostert crucially steal English ball, before Willemse's clearance kick unusually connected with Twickenham's spider-cam, handing South Africa a defensive scrum.
Itoje jackalled to win a breakdown penalty following the scrum, placing England back into the corner, and with South Africa lucky to avoid the concession of a penalty try for bringing down a rolling maul in the first instance, they stole the next lineout through Etzebeth to clear.
Replacement hooker Malcolm Marx jackalled to win a breakdown penalty the next time England were down by the 22, but with eight minutes to go, England did finally register a try in the Test when Slade finished off a move that had started with a Ben Youngs quick-tap penalty, and had seen Farrell go close under the posts.
The home side failed to build up a head of steam in the time that remained, however, as Slade knocked on to sap up a wealth of time through scrums, before Cowan-Dickie threw crookedly at a lineout with three minutes to go to end all hope of a second unlikely comeback in as many weeks, following last week's scarcely deserved 25-25 draw with the All Blacks.
Jones' England have now completed their autumn international schedule for 2022, having picked up a win over Japan, a draw vs New Zealand, and defeats to Argentina and South Africa. They are next in action at the 2023 Six Nations, where they start against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4.
England's Autumn Internationals
|Sunday, November 6
|England 29-30 Argentina
|Saturday, November 12
|England 52-13 Japan
|Saturday, November 19
|England 25-25 New Zealand
|Saturday, November 26
|England 13-27 South Africa
For Jacques Nienaber and the Springboks, they too have completed their autumn schedule for 2022, having beaten England and Italy, but lost to Ireland and France.
South Africa's Autumn Internationals
|Saturday, November 5
|Ireland 19-16 South Africa
|Saturday, November 12
|France 30-26 South Africa
|Saturday, November 19
|Italy 21-63 South Africa
|Saturday, November 26
|England 13-27 South Africa