Rugby World Cup 2019
England 12-32 South Africa
Fly-half Handre Pollard kicked a record 22 points to allow Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of South Africa, to lift the Rugby World Cup after a comprehensive defeat of England at International Stadium Yokohama.
Brilliant second-half tries from wingers Makozole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe allowed the Springboks to win a third Rugby World Cup, punishing an error-ridden England performance.
Eddie Jones’s team were given a lesson in power scrummaging in the first half. The Springboks took away England’s set-piece with a clinical performance that allowed the majestic Pollard to keep the scoreboard ticking over. He became the record Springboks points scorer in a Rugby World Cup final, and the top scorer at RWC 2019 with 69.
England were kept in the match by captain Owen Farrell’s four penalties but they could not repeat the form that had helped them to topple reigning champions New Zealand in the semi-finals. The result means the Springboks – who had never scored a try in their previous two Rugby World Cup final triumphs in 1995 and 2007 – are now the No.1 team in the world.
Jones’s men made the worst possible start when prop Kyle Sinckler was knocked out in the second minute in making a tackle, having made contact with team-mate Maro Itoje. Dan Cole was thrown into the fray much earlier than expected and he spent the next six minutes trying to repel repeated Springbok attacks that eventually yielded a penalty for Pollard, as the England defence held out under intense pressure.
England were making numerous unforced handling errors trying to be too expansive off poorly set-up possession, and the scrum was being put into reverse by strong Springbok pressure. It took cool work under the high ball to bring some order to the England chaos with Anthony Watson proving to be a rock in an otherwise shaky defence. Jonny May tried to put pace into a stuttering attack and also defused another high kick under pressure, finally allowing Owen Farrell to move his team deep inside South Africa territory.
England finally stabilised a scrum and with Billy and Mako Vunipola carrying strongly, Farrell was able to kick a penalty and tie the scores.
South Africa lost hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi to a head injury and also lock Lood de Jager to an arm injury, sending on Malcolm Marx at No.2 and second-row Franco Mostert as the game really started to take a toll on the players. Another poor England scrum led to a Pollard penalty, after which England turned on the power and had their best few minutes of the first half.
They repeatedly surged at the Springbok line only to be repulsed every time, and the same happened when the ball moved wide. Farrell eventually kicked a penalty that tied the game again at 6-6 when he and his team had hoped for more. England’s frustation increased as side entry at a ruck handed Pollard a third penalty, and he kicked a fourth to end the half as the scrum was penalised yet again.
That made it 12-6 to South Africa at the break and the omens looked bad for England. No team had ever recovered from a half-time deficit to win a Rugby World Cup final – and they never looked like being the first to do so.
England sent on the heavier George Kruis for Courtney Lawes to try and shore up the scrum at half-time and the Springboks responded by changing both props. the Boks continued to dominate, winning another penalty that Pollard kicked from near halfway to trigger a change at loosehead for England with Joe Marler replacing Mako Vunipola. Straight away referee Jerome Garces found more fault with the England front-row, who apparently couldn not get out of reverse gear.
At the next scrum they finally fragmented the Springbok scrum but Farrell, who had moved to No10 after Henry Slade replaced George Ford, missed the penalty. That miss was compounded by an offside ruling against Manu Tuilagi which allowed Pollard a sixth penalty success. Both teams could not stop offending and Marx came in from the side at the restart allowing Farrell to cut the deficit to six points at 18-12.
That, though, would be the end of England’s scoring.
Just when it appeared to be a third straight final of kicked points for South Africa, they put 14 more points on the board with converted tries by Mapimpi and Kolbe on the left and right respectively. Mapimpi started and finished the crucial try with the help of centre Lukhayno Am, then came a typically brilliant individual try from Kolbe.
Farrell said at the finish that he was proud of his team’s effort but added, “Credit to South Africa. they were very good today.”