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England 12-32 South Africa: Springboks Break English Hearts In Thrilling Rugby World Cup Final

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For a record-equalling third time, South Africa have won the Rugby World Cup.

And, just as they did last time, in 2007, it is English hearts they have broken with a performance of skill and plenty more style than they get credit for to win 32-12 in Yokohama.

It was tries form both their wingers, Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, in the final 15 minutes of the game that added the finishing touches to a triumph built on dominance up front. They won penalty after penalty at the scrum, many of which Handre Pollard turned into points – 22 in all – and their back-row bossed the breakdown. The Springboks never trailed, and were thoroughly deserving winners. Their first black captain Siya Kolisi and their wily coach Rassie Erasmus have masterminded a triumph that could be transformational.

The narrative of the build-up was all about the stilted style South Africa used to beat Wales in the semi-final. Here, they showed so much more, to leave thousands of travelling England fans desperately disappointed. England, who arrived late and looked nervous, were simply unable to live with their physicality. Tactically a little misguided, England were not at the races, and their quite brilliant performance to beat New Zealand in the semi-finals felt plenty more than a week earlier. Fast starts have become England’s trademark. This was not one of them. First, they were lucky that Courtney Lawes’ failure to roll away did not result in a three-point deficit after a minute, as Handre Pollard missed to the right.

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Then they lost Kyle Sinckler, who has had such a wonderful tournament, in sickening fashion. He copped Maro Itoje’s forearm to the head, and that his night was over was immediately clear. It was a relief that he was able to walk from the field. Dan Cole came on and, with South Africa awarded a penalty advantage at the scrum, England’s struggles continued. By the time 10 minutes were out, they had thrown three very loose passes, two in their own 22, and were three points down. Pollard was not missing from in front of the posts. South Africa showed more than they did throughout their semi-final against Wales. Willie le Roux was fizzing for the first time this World Cup, and they were dominating the set-piece.

It looked as if England were growing into the game and, after a period of pressure, Owen Farrell’s penalty levelled the scores. As he did so, South Africa lost two of their tight five – hooker Bongi Mbonbami and Lood de Jager – to injury. But England knocked on at the restart and South Africa bullied their scrum once more. Jerome Garces had made his mind up about the direction of travel there, and gave a penalty that Pollard duly gobbled up. Again, when South Africa gave away another penalty England headed into South Africa’s half and put some pressure on. It was 25 phases worth of pressure, with Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola prominent, against some epic Springbok defence, but the final pass – flung by Elliot Daly – escaped them.

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Garces went back for a penalty advantage, and Farrell took three points when England should have scored seven. True to form, England could not build on their foothold and, in the final minutes of the half, South Africa won two more penalties – one at the scrum – that Pollard sent over. A six-point deficit flattered England. When the opposition are as dominant as South Africa are at the scrum, your accuracy has to be perfect. England were all over the shop, attempting overly-ambitious passes and playing without their heads – beginning with scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Jones wasted no time at the break. Courtney Lawes was hooked, for George Kruis’s set-piece ballast. It did not work initially, with South Africa awarded two more penalties at the scrum, the first of which cost England three points. But Joe Marler joined Kruis, and turned the tide at the set-piece. Farrell took England back to six behind, then missed a tough effort to make it just three. Pollard and Farrell traded penalties once more, but it was still South Africa finding the field position and dominating the airwaves. Then Mapimpi landed the killer blow, with some delightful interplay with Lukhanyo Am and – after England again failed to make pressure count – Kolbe was just too swift on the outside for England’s tired bodies.

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At that point, with five minutes left, every Englishman just needed it to end. South Africa, as they had all day, managed the ball to perfection, and Pollard drilled it out. Right to the last, they played the game on their terms. Dan Cole came on and, with South Africa awarded a penalty advantage at the scrum, England’s struggles continued. By the time 10 minutes were out, they had thrown three very loose passes, two in their own 22, and were three points down.

Pollard was not missing from in front of the posts. South Africa showed more than they did throughout their semi-final against Wales. Willie le Roux was fizzing for the first time this World Cup, and they were dominating the set-piece. It looked as if England were growing into the game and, after a period of pressure, Owen Farrell’s penalty levelled the scores. As he did so, South Africa lost two of their tight five – hooker Bongi Mbonbami and Lood de Jager – to injury. But England knocked on at the restart and South Africa bullied their scrum once more. Jerome Garces had made his mind up about the direction of travel there, and gave a penalty that Pollard duly gobbled up.

Photo Credit: Getty

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