|Second Test: South Africa v England|
|South Africa (13) 23|
|Tries: Vermeulen, penalty Con: Pollard Pens: Pollard 3|
|England (12) 12|
|Tries: Brown, May Con: Farrell|
England lost their fifth Test match in a row as South Africa wrapped up the series 2-0 with one match to play.
The tourists once again started well and raced into a 12-0 lead as Mike Brown and Jonny May scored fine tries.
The Boks fought back as a Duane Vermeulen try and Handre Pollard’s boot gave them a one-point lead at the break.
A penalty try saw the hosts stretch well clear as they kept England scoreless in the second half.
It is the first time since 2014 they have lost five in a row – a sequence that saw them beaten four times by New Zealand and once by South Africa.
Deja vu all over again
History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes, so the saying goes, and that was the case for much of the first half.
In the first Test in Johannesburg England raced into an early 24-3 lead before ultimately losing 42-39, and the pattern was mirrored in Bloemfontein.
It was a more aggressive and abrasive 40 minutes than the opener last weekend, with England’s forwards keen to get stuck in – and often transgressing as a result.
Billy Vunipola – who was to be forced off by yet another injury just before half-time – made the initial impact, hitting and spinning to make ground in heavy traffic, before crisp passing enabled May to give Brown a simple run-in for the first try.
They soon added a second as quick hands in midfield – including a batted pass from the juggling Brown – saw May scorch 40 metres, but once again they could not hold on to a significant early advantage.
Boks bounce back – again
Inspired by their big runners up front, the Boks came to life and duly led by half-time.
Vermeulen was once again a massive figure at number eight and his powerful score – he stepped Billy Vunipola before powering past Maro Itoje – got the scoreboard ticking over and heralded what was to come.
Pollard’s boot did the rest as the hosts led 13-12 at the break.
England were their own worst enemies, with some petulant indiscipline from Mako Vunipola and Itoje aiding the South Africa cause, and they also threw plenty of handling errors into the mix.
They had to start the second half better than the hosts, but two early knock-ons halted their attempts to generate momentum and effectively killed off their challenge.
More to follow.
England: Elliot Daly (Wasps); Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Jamie George (Saracens), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Brad Shields (Hurricanes/Wasps), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Mark Wilson (Newcastle), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Ben Spencer (Saracens), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)
South Africa: Willie le Roux (Wasps); S’busiso Nkosi (Sharks), Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Aphiwe Dyantyi (Lions); Handre Pollard (Bulls), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), RG Snyman (Bulls), Franco Mostert (Lions), Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Duane Vermeulen (unattached).
Replacements: Akker van der Merwe (Sharks), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Thomas du Toit (Sharks), Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Stormers), Ivan van Zyl (Bulls), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Warrick Gelant (Bulls).