Smith kicks England to thrilling win over Springboks

·4 min read

Marcus Smith held his nerve with a 79th-minute penalty as England gained a measure of revenge for their 2019 World Cup final defeat by South Africa with a thrilling 27-26 win at Twickenham on Saturday.

England fashioned fine tries for Manu Tuilagi, Freddie Steward and Raffi Quirke to just one from South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi in what was the teams' first meeting since the Springboks were crowned world champions with a 32-12 win in Japan.

But with England conceding 18 penalties to eight, the Springboks led 26-24.

South Africa, however, were already a man down following skipper Siya Kolisi's 75th-minute yellow card and they gave away a kickable penalty from in front of the posts just 26 metres out.

The 22-year-old Smith, in just his fifth Test, made no mistake and England, who finished a lowly fifth in this year's Six Nations, then saw out the game to complete an autumn series clean sweep following wins over Tonga and Australia.

"I can't believe it," Smith told Amazon Prime. "It's a day I'll never forget."

An England side without several first-choice front rows -- prop Bevan Rood was winning just his second cap -- held their own up front, while the composed Smith made light of the absence of centre Owen Farrell, the captain having been ruled out by an ankle injury.

- 'Kept playing' -

"We had a young team, they probably didn't realise how important the game was and they just went out there and kept playing and playing," said veteran England coach Eddie Jones.

The Australian added: "We've never been bad, we had a bad Six Nations but we've never been a bad team."

Defeat deprived South Africa of an unbeaten tour following wins over Wales and Scotland, with Kolisi saying: "It was a pity that we couldn't finish strong but I'm proud of the way the boys pushed up even when we made a few mistakes."

South Africa were without Rassie Erasmus after their inspirational director of rugby was given a two-month ban from all rugby activity following his criticism of match officials during the Springboks' series win over the British and Irish Lions.

England went ahead in just the seventh minute when Smith and impressive centre Henry Slade combined to send Tuilagi in at the corner.

But the injury-prone Tuilagi, who started the match with a heavily-strapped leg, immediately limped off.

Smith converted before opposing fly-half Handre Pollard scored the first of four first-half penalties.

England stretched their lead when full-back Steward, capitalising on a burst by Tuilagi's replacement Max Malins, held off three defenders as he forced his way over from a ruck.

Pollard's boot kept the Springboks in touch but Smith maintained his 100 percent record off the tee with a penalty to put England 17-12 ahead at half-time.

- England indiscipline -

South Africa, having failed to dominate the scrum, brought on their 'Bomb Squad' replacement front row early in the second half.

But although they forced two penalties, Pollard missed both kicks.

England, having conceded 19 penalties against Australia, gave Pollard another chance and this time he was on target, the Springboks now just two points behind with 25 minutes still left.

The Boks then declined a kickable penalty only for Malins to hold up Kwagga Smith over the try-line.

Elton Jantjies' 63rd-minute penalty, however, gave South Africa the lead for the first time at 18-17.

The advantage only lasted a minute, however, as Slade and wing Joe Marchant released Quirke, winning just his second cap, for a debut Test try.

Smith converted and England were 24-18 up only to then lose reserve forward Will Stuart to a yellow card.

The Springboks made their advantage count when Mapimpi -- a World Cup final try-scorer -- went in at the corner for his 20th try in 25 Tests with 10 minutes left.

Jantjies failed to convert but his penalty soon after edged the Springboks into a 26-24 lead.

South Africa were reduced to 14 men when Kolisi was sin-binned for taking out Marchant in the air, leaving the way clear for Smith to add the final twist.

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