Farrell fluffs chance to down ’Boks


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - Page 20

Replacement flyhalf Owen Farrell fluffed a stoppage-time drop-goal attempt as England drew 14-14 with South Africa on Saturday in the final game of their three-Test series.

The Springboks won the series 2-0 after victories in Durban and Johannesburg, but came under massive post-hooter pressure at a wet Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.

With the visitors unable to find a way through the green and gold defense, the ball was passed back to Farrell, whose attempt was low and wide to the relief of most in a capacity 45,000 crowd.

Usually deadly South Africa goal-kicker and flyhalf Morne Steyn had another off day, missing three of six shots at goal and a late drop-goal attempt that failed prompted boos from some spectators.

Steyn kicked three penalties and winger J.P. Pietersen scored his second try in as many Tests for the Springboks, while scrumhalf Danny Care crossed the line for England and Farrell (twice) and flyhalf Toby Flood kicked penalties.

The result ended a run of nine consecutive victories by South Africa over England since 2006 and it was only the second draw between the countries in 35 Tests, with the first 106 years ago at Crystal Palace in London.

“Credit to England, who played well, but we were disappointing. We were not good enough tonight and must look hard at ourselves. Our option-taking was poor,” Springbok skipper and outside center Jean de Villiers said.

Rival captain and England hooker Dylan Hartley said: “We grafted, and our defense and ball retention was good, but we could not get the result we desperately wanted. The team have learned a lot from this tour.”

England were ahead in less than two minutes as South Africa got caught offside and Flood kicked a simple penalty, before missing a second, more difficult attempt.

With seven minutes gone the teams were level as another offside infringement offered Steyn the chance to kick his first penalty on a ground where he scored all 18 points in a triumph over New Zealand last year.

An attempted clearance kick by Steyn that was blocked by impressive No. 8 Thomas Waldrom led to England regaining the lead after 11 minutes through a try from former English rugby “bad boy” Care.

The charge down led to England bursting down the center and when the home team were penalized Care spotted a gap, took a tap penalty and dived over between prop Jannie du Plessis and lock Eben Etzebeth.

Flood saw his conversion drift just left of the far post and Steyn cut the deficit to two points with another successful penalty on 16 minutes as the England pack continued to be whistled at rucks and mauls.

Steyn missed his third penalty, while England found themselves down to a third-choice flyhalf, with Alex Goode coming forward from fullback as injuries sidelined Flood permanently and replacement Farrell temporarily.

Farrell, axed following the first Test loss in Durban, returned after Steyn kicked a 28th-minute penalty to edge the Springboks 9-8 ahead and close the opening-half scoring, but it could have been a wider margin at the break as a multi-phase attack by the Springboks brought them close to the England line, before 20-year-old Etzebeth knocked on.

Both teams had penalty chances within the first 10 minutes of the second half and while Farrell made no mistake from close range, Steyn fluffed a more difficult opportunity.

After numerous warnings to the England forwards for infringements, Australian referee Steve Walsh lost his patience on 51 minutes and showed New Zealand-born Hartley a yellow card.

South Africa spent a lot of time in the England half and were rewarded just past the hour when lineout possession led to an assault on the line and a skip pass from replacement scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar sent Pietersen over.

Steyn failed to convert from far out, but the Springboks were ahead 14-11, only for England to level when Farrell kicked his second close-range penalty eight minutes from time.