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England looses to South Africa 15:16

Rugby World Cup 2023 | Match Centre | England 15:16 South Africa

In a heart-wrenching turn of events, England’s quest for an incredible upset and a fifth Rugby World Cup final was thwarted by a resurgent South African team in a gripping showdown in Paris. England had displayed immense tenacity and determination in the first half, employing a strategic barrage of kicks into the South African backfield that led to a steady accumulation of penalties.

Owen Farrell was clinical with his kicking, converting four penalties to give England a 12-6 lead at halftime. The Springboks, however, reorganized their lineup after the break, but Farrell’s drop-goal extended England’s lead, bringing them tantalizingly close to a monumental victory.

Nevertheless, with just 10 minutes remaining, RG Snyman’s try narrowed the underdogs’ lead to 15-13. The decisive blow came in the 77th minute when the Springboks’ powerful scrum secured a match-winning penalty, thanks to Handre Pollard. It was a cruel ending for England, who had led from the third minute until the closing moments of the game.

Amidst the drama, white-shirted England players lay dejected on the rain-soaked Stade de France turf. Tempers flared as confrontations erupted between players, reflecting the intensity and physicality of the contest. This unyielding spirit defined the England side, who consistently stood their ground and took the fight to their more favored opponents.

The performance was a testament to the coaching prowess of Steve Borthwick, who had previously orchestrated an astonishing turnaround for Leicester, transforming them from relegation contenders to Premiership champions in just 18 months. He had guided England to the precipice of a World Cup final, an achievement that underscored his coaching acumen.

Following a narrow victory over hosts France in the previous week on the same stage, South Africa advanced to face New Zealand in the upcoming World Cup final, with both teams vying for a record fourth title. Meanwhile, England was slated to contest the third-place playoff against Argentina.

England’s Strategic Brilliance in Paris

In a stark contrast to their past encounters with the Springboks, where they were often outmaneuvered and outmuscled, England began the match as the aggressors. They displayed confidence and executed a well-thought-out game plan. Early in the game, Joe Marchant nearly secured Farrell’s opening drop-out, leaving the South African defense guessing.

England’s aerial prowess was evident as Elliot Daly outjumped Kurt-Lee Arendse to tap back an Alex Mitchell box-kick, and Courtney Lawes was quick to seize loose balls on the ground. Freddie Steward, who was reinstated in the starting lineup for this specific purpose, adeptly fielded kicks into England’s backfield. This relentless pressure unsettled South Africa.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe, scrutinized for his controversial handling of the previous match between the Springboks and France, penalized Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Siya Kolisi in quick succession. Farrell capitalized on these opportunities, converting two penalties and giving England an early 6-0 lead within the first 10 minutes.

South Africa attempted to rely on their traditional strengths, including one-out runners, strong line-out play, scrum dominance, and risk-averse tactics. However, England consistently denied them any foothold in the match.

England’s defensive prowess disrupted the Springbok rolling maul, and George Martin’s powerful tackle forced a crucial knock-on from Franco Mostert. Although South Africa’s Manie Libbok managed to score three points, Farrell extended England’s lead with another penalty after a loose pass from Damian Willemse put the Springboks under pressure.

With England leading 9-3 and the game clock ticking down, South Africa made a critical decision, replacing Libbok with Pollard at fly-half in search of a momentum shift. Despite this change, England, brimming with self-assurance, entered halftime with a 12-6 lead, the same advantage that South Africa had enjoyed in Yokohama four years prior.

South Africa’s Strategic Adjustments

Recognizing the need for a turnaround, South Africa introduced key replacements early in the second half. Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux, and RG Snyman were brought on within the first six minutes of the half, with the formidable Eben Etzebeth among those who made way.

However, England’s substitutions initially had a more significant impact. Ellis Genge’s powerful run created the ideal platform for Farrell to execute a drop-goal, extending England’s lead to 15-6. At this point, England’s fans, seemingly outnumbered at the stadium, began to outsing the Springbok supporters, with “Swing Low” resonating throughout the stands.

In the end, it was the Springbok fans who had the last, triumphant cheer. Snyman barged over near the posts, narrowing England’s lead to a mere two points, and the depth of South Africa’s squad ultimately secured a nail-biting conclusion to the match. Replacement props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch capitalized on the set-piece, earning a pivotal penalty. As in 2019, Handre Pollard demonstrated unerring accuracy from the tee, securing South Africa’s victory.

In a clash marked by intensity and dramatic swings, South Africa emerged victorious, ending England’s valiant pursuit of a fifth Rugby World Cup final appearance.

Match Summary

Semi-Final 2 | England 15:16 South Africa

England Scores:

PENS Owen Farrell (3′, 10′, 24′, 39′)
DGS Owen Farrell (53′)

South Africa Scores:

TRIES RG Snyman (69′)
CONV Handre Pollard (70′)
PENS Manie Libbok (21′), Handre Pollard (35′, 78′)

Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Ben O’Keeffe
Man of the Match:
Handre Pollard (South Africa)


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