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England vs. South Africa: Score and Report from Autumn Rugby International

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Jan Serfontein of South Africa celebrates as he runs in the opening try during the QBE Intenational match between England and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on November 15, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

South Africa bounced back in style after last week's defeat to Ireland, beating England 31-28 in an engrossing match at Twickenham.

The result was confirmed by the South Africa Rugby Twitter account:

South African Rugby @Springboks

South Africa has beaten England 31-28 at Twickenham. Well played #Springboks.

Tries from Jan Serfontein, Cobus Reinach and Schalk Burger plus 16 points from the boot of Pat Lambie were enough to help the Springboks over the line, as they quelled an England fightback to emerge as narrow victors.

Ahead of this massive clash, England captain Chris Robshaw insisted that his team would be looking to impose themselves early on in the match, per BBC Sport:

We're not going to wait for the physicality and intensity which I'm sure South Africa will bring. Being at home we want to impose ourselves and get back on track.

No one in the squad has beaten them so doing that would be a massive statement of intent.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Chris Robshaw catches the ball during the England captain's run at Twickenham Stadium on November 14, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

It was a special day for scrum-half Danny Care, who picked up his 50th cap in England colours. After being excluded from the squad a few years ago for disciplinary reasons, it represents a remarkable turnaround for 27-year-old and the England Rugby account paid tribute to their No. 9 ahead of the game:

England Rugby @EnglandRugby

It's a 50th ENG cap on Sat, but look how it started. Here's 7 year-old @dannycare zooming in to score #wheels #leeds https://t.co/kYZml9Y7Hp

But it wasn't to be an ideal start to this clash for England, nor the half-centurion. The home side really struggled to cope with South Africa's intensity in the early exchanges, conceding a penalty which Lambie slotted with ease.

The Springboks seemed galvanised by that score, and they were much sharper in their passing and in the breakdown. That edge materialised into something tangible not long after going in front, as Serfontein telegraphed Care's pass on halfway, allowing the young centre to run unchallenged and tap down under the posts. Lambie added a relatively simple conversion, giving South Africa a 10-0 lead.

Here's that score, courtesy of Sky Sports Rugby:

Sky Sports Rugby @SkySportsRugby

TRY Serfontein! Great start for SA. SS1 now. QBE rugby updates brought to you by @SamsungMobileUK #GalaxyNote4’- http://t.co/rYcQku7pbu

England were really struggling to establish a foothold in the game. The difficult conditions were being negotiated much more astutely by the hosts, and sports writer Neil Fissler pulled no punches in his assessment of their start to the match:

Neil Fissler @neilfissler

England have worked on three things this week. Handling, decision making and execution..It's obviously worked 0-10. #rugbyunited #rugby

The home side did have something to cheer just before the 30-minute mark though, as Owen Farrell knocked over a simple penalty, as the Springboks failed to release deep into their own 22. The two sides added a further three points each prior to the interval, meaning the visitors held a 13-6 advantage after 40 minutes.

The England Rugby account broke down the statistics from the first period, highlighting the hosts' struggles to make the most out of their territorial dominance:

England Rugby @EnglandRugby

ENG dominated large parts of first 40 (71% territory & 63% possession) and but for the intercept try from Serfontein we’d be tied up #ENGvSA

Things got even bleaker for England after the restart as South Africa again looked the stronger of the two teams in the opening stages. The Springboks scored almost immediately from the kickoff, as Reinach capitalised on a fine offload from Willie le Roux. Lambie converted and the visitors moved into a commanding 20-6 lead.

But England stirred after that setback as South Africa were reduced to 14 men; the Springboks' talisman Victor Matfield was sent to the sin bin. With the influential forward out of the picture, the home side suddenly had the edge in the power stakes and it was no surprise when David Wilson tumbled over after a massive English drive.

Here's Wilson's try, courtesy of Sky Sports Rugby:

Sky Sports Rugby @SkySportsRugby

TRY Wilson! England hit back quickly. SS1 now. QBE rugby updates brought to you by @SamsungMobileUK #GalaxyNote4 - http://t.co/grSEDU3Em6

With momentum behind them and the Twickenham crowd roaring, England found themselves back on level terms not long after. The South Africa defence was unable to halt a well-structured maul, and it was left to Ben Morgan to add the finishing touches, moving the score on to 20-20.

Tom Fordyce of the BBC did well to give a succinct summation of a frantic opening to the second half:

tomfordyce @tomfordyce

Now then. England, 14 points down a minute after half-time, drive-maul their way to parity within five minutes. Game turned on its backside

The Springboks were galvanised into action, though, and manufactured some dangerous territory from the restart. It gave them a platform to build from and in the 56th minute they were back in front courtesy of Burger; Lambie couldn't add the conversion, meaning the South Africa lead stood at five points.

The visitor's No. 10 made amends not long after, as he slotted an awkward penalty to push the lead out to eight points. England replacement George Ford added a penalty in response, moving the scoreboard onto 28-23 in favour of the visitors, but when Lambie put over a drop goal, the Springboks looked home and hosed.

Lambie kept the scoreboard ticking over for the tourists.
Lambie kept the scoreboard ticking over for the tourists.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

A late Brad Barritt try gave the home side a slither of hope, but South Africa saw out the final seconds to triumph; they're now unbeaten against England in their last 12 matches.

For England, that's five defeats in a row. They've suffered narrow losses to the two top sides in the world in the last two outings, but truth be told, late scores have added some gloss to the scoreline. At this juncture they look a long way short of challenging at the peak of world rugby and there is plenty of work to be done for Stuart Lancaster's men ahead of the 2015 World Cup. 

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