Robshaw's men will not lie down but Bok barrage is too heavy

South Africa 36 England 27: Young England battle back from another battering and two controversial tries but Test series goes west at South Africa's most fearsome fortress

Ellis Park

Northern-hemisphere rugby is hurting badly after another bitter weekend south of the Equator, and for 40 minutes yesterday it seemed England's pain would be particularly excruciating, as they were splattered all over the greatest of Afrikaner rugby citadels. But Chris Robshaw's men fought back valiantly in the second half, closing what had seemed an unbridgeable gap to a mere four points and, while they came up short at the end, their agony was born of frustration, not humiliation.

Two second-half tries from the scrum-half Ben Youngs and some pinpoint marksmanship from his Leicester clubmate Toby Flood restored the tourists' faith in themselves after a desperate first period and, but for a late try from the long-serving wing JP Pietersen, who has saved games for South Africa before, there might have been a shock of significant proportions. As it was, the Springboks wrapped up the series, 2-0 with one to play.

The Boks swept along at more than a point a minute in the first quarter, scoring three tries. If the first, which fell to the brick-outhouse flanker Willem Alberts, was too easy for words, the second, scored by the equally substantial hooker Bismarck du Plessis, looked just a little dodgy at the moment of touchdown and dodgier still on video replays. There was no questioning Francois Hougaard's close-range finish on 18 minutes, however, and it seemed to mark the end of England's interest in the game.

Stuart Lancaster, the tourists' head coach (pictured right), had talked about composure in the week separating the defeat in Durban and this must-win contest at a stadium where the Boks had lost only five times in the 40 years since an England team resourcefully led by the grand old Bristol front-rower John Pullin took them wholly by surprise in 1972. Unfortunately for Lancaster, his entire squad must have turned a deaf ear, for early composure there was none.

From the get-go, South Africa set about pulverising their opponents with a 14-phase attack that would have yielded a try in the left corner for Bryan Habana but for an excellent cover tackle by the No 8 Ben Morgan. England were given the put-in at the ensuing scrum and all seemed well as they held the Springbok shove, but when the ball slipped out between the tighthead prop, Dan Cole, and the loose forward Tom Johnson on the blind side of the set-piece, Alberts was able to scoop it up in his outsized paw and open the scoring.

He could barely believe his luck, and that luck may have extended further than many thought, for students of scrummaging were far from convinced that the sequence of events from put-in to emergence was legal. The ball is meant to touch a front-row forward for a set-piece to be completed, irrespective of where it revisits the light of day. The evidence of this actually happening was scant to say the least.

Worse was to come, legally and in every other sense. Ben Foden, switched from the wing to his more familiar position at full-back because of the busted thumb suffered by Mike Brown in Durban, spilled his first high ball and allowed the double world champions to launch another withering assault. Marcell Coetzee, quite brilliant on the Springbok openside flank, was as prominent as anyone in laying the siege and when the moment was there to be seized, Du Plessis muscled his way to the line at the sticks. Strong suspicions that he had grounded the ball short appeared to be confirmed by the available footage, but Giulio De Santis, the television match official from Italy, thought otherwise.

After all this, Hougaard's score had an overpowering whiff of inevitability about it. Coetzee, energy made flesh, and Tendai Mtawarira both featured twice – after a relatively quiet outing seven days previously, Mtawarira fully lived up to his nickname of "Beast" here – and there were no reports of people dying of shock when the scrum-half completed things to the right of the posts. Two minutes shy of the 20-minute mark, things were looking ugly. Yet England showed enough life to respond with a try of their own: Youngs made his presence felt with a trademark tap-and-go move, Chris Ashton put himself on his shoulder and Flood did the rest.

Morne Steyn's goal-kicking frailties just about gave England hope, and when Youngs claimed the first of his touchdowns from an overthrown South African line-out on 51 minutes, things started to look up.

Just after the hour, the half-back closed the deficit further by smuggling over from a penalty line-out after a high tackle on Thomas Waldrom by Eben Etzebeth. But Pietersen set sail on a thrilling 40-metre run eight minutes from time and regained his position on the wing to complete the wrap-up score.

South Africa: P Lambie; JP Pietersen (both Sharks), J de Villiers (Stormers, capt), F Steyn (Sharks), B Habana (Stormers); M Steyn, F Hougaard (both Blue Bulls); T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis (all Sharks), E Etzebeth (Stormers), J Kruger (Bulls), M Coetzee (Sharks), P Spies (Bulls), W Alberts (Sharks). Replacements: W Olivier (Bulls) for Lambie, 44; K Daniel (Sharks) for Alberts, 52; W Kruger (Bulls) for J du Plessis, 59; A Strauss (Cheetahs) for B du Plessis, 60; F van der Merwe (Bulls) for J Kruger, 62.

England: B Foden (Northampton); D Strettle (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), M Tuilagi (Leicester), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood, B Youngs (both Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), B Morgan (Scarlets), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt). Replacements: T Palmer (Stade Français) for Botha, 44; T Waldrom (Leicester) for Morgan, 46; A Corbisiero (London Irish) for Cole, 49; Cole for Marler, 56; O Farrell (Saracens) for Strettle, 59; L Dickson (Northampton) for Youngs, 74; L Mears (Bath) for Hartley, 74; A Goode (Saracens) for Joseph, 77.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone