England show character to eke out win over South Africa

England were transformed in the second half, with their backs finally getting the ball in hand and Farrell and Elliot Daly providing the points with the boot.

Sbu Nkosi scored the only try of the Test while Handre Pollard added two penalty goals. Picture: Twitter @Springboks.

LONDON - England’s new-look side delivered a performance full of character to withstand an early onslaught and come back to beat South Africa 12-11 with four penalties in a topsy-turvy test at Twickenham on Saturday.

South Africa led 8-6 at halftime through a try for winger Sibusio Nkosi but they should have been much further ahead as England showed nothing in attack but stayed in range with two Owen Farrell penalties.

England were transformed in the second half, with their backs finally getting the ball in hand and Farrell and Elliot Daly providing the points with the boot.

Flyhalf Handre Pollard had the chance to win it for South Africa with another long-range penalty three minutes from time but his effort skimmed off the outside of the post while England’s full-time celebrations were briefly halted while the referee consulted the TMO to look at a Farrell tackle.

He duly ruled it legal - just - to give England a morale-boosting win after losing five of their previous six full internationals, including a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa.

“We got through 80 minutes, there was sharp resistance and toughness in our play so I’m really pleased with out boys. We got a bit excited too early at the end though, I’ll learn from that. I forgot about the TMO,” England coach Eddie Jones said.

“We just stuck at it, we stayed in the arm wrestle. We did the simple things well, we had to keep them on the back foot and we did that.”

The Springboks had beaten New Zealand away and were desperately close last month to completing a double over the world champions at home in the Rugby Championship.

However, they were without several key players on Saturday, most notably scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, due to the game falling outside the international window.

They made light of those absences in an impressive first half, though, when centre Damian de Allende proved a powerful and elusive runner as they mixed up their attack to good effect.

England survived the early sin-binning of lock Maro Itoje and had to defend for their lives to keep the score to 3-3 after half an hour’s play in which their scrum was constantly under pressure.

But their line was eventually broken when De Allende cut through midfield to set up slick handling that sent winger Nkosi over in the right corner.

Farrell’s second penalty closed the gap and South Africa will have jogged off wondering how they were only two points ahead when England had not once ventured into their 22 and given away a slew of penalties.