Match Centre: England 27-26 South Africa

Marcus Smith kicked the decisive penalty goal in the closing stage
Marcus Smith kicked the decisive penalty goal in the closing stage

England 27-26 South Africa, Twickenham Stadium

Marcus Smith kicked the decisive penalty goal in the last two minutes as England sealed a thrilling 27-26 win over South Africa in their final game of the autumn internationals fixture at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.

The result also meant the red rose team have won all the three games in the campaign having defeated Tonga and Australia earlier finishing the year on a high after a disappointing Six Nations tournament where they finished.

This was also the first time the two teams locked horns each other since the final of the 2019 World Cup in Japan which the Springboks went on to win to claim the title.

England dominated the early exchanges as Smith kicked the ball deep into the Springbok 22 with Henry Slade sending a perfect pass for Manu Tuilagi to touchdown in the 7th minute. The Harlequins fly-half kicked the conversion as England raced to a 7-0 lead.

The response from South Africa came in the 14th minute through the boot of Handre Pollard after England were penalised for holding on. Nevertheless, England doubled their tally at the end of the first quarter as Young found Freddie Steward on his way over the line and Smith kicked the extras making it 14-3.

Pollard helped South Africa cut down the arrears with his second penalty kick in the 20th minute to make it 14-6 before Smith restored the 11-point lead for the hosts in the 23rd minute after Eben Etzebeth punished at the breakdown.

Two more penalties from Pollard increased South Africa's tally to 12 points before a superb effort from Damien de Allende denied Max Malins a try as the scoreline remained at 17-12. With a drop goal from Smith going off target, England went into the break with a five-point lead.

South Africa had a chance to go into the lead in the second half but Pollard missed two penalties while Jesse Kriel had a try scoring chance missed. Nevertheless, the South African fly-half made amends with a three-pointer in the 53rd minute to reduce the gap down to two points.

South Africa cramped up further pressure on England but a desperate effort from Malins prevented a try for Kwagga Smith but their infringements kept on providing the visitors opportunities with this time Elton Jantjies slotting a penalty goal in the 62nd minute to bring them into a lead of 17-18.

A combination of Slade and Joe Marchant ensured England seized the lead through their third try that came from Raffi Quirke and Smith improved to make it 24-18. England suffered a major setback as Will Stuart was sin-binned in the 66th minute for repeated infringements and Makazole Mapimpi crossed over for the Boks three minutes later. Jantjies missed out on the conversion as the scoreline became 24-23 heading into the final 10 minutes.

A breakdown infringement from England in the 73rd minute allowed South Africa to go into the lead with Steyn slotting a three-pointer. Just as South Africa thought they had the game in control, their skipper Siya Kolisi was yellow carded with five minutes left in the game for taking out Marchant out in the air and Smith kicked a nerveless penalty to seal a thrilling win for England.

Team line up:

England: Steward; Marchant, Slade, Tuilagi, May; Smith, Youngs; Rodd, Blamire, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Lawes (capt), Underhill, Curry.

Reserves: Dolly, Marler, Stuart, Ewels, Simmonds, Dombrandt, Quirke, Malins.

South Africa: Le Roux; Kriel, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, Reinach; Nche, Mbonambi, Nyakane, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi, Smith, Vermeulen.

Reserves: Marx, Kitshoff, Koch, Mostert, Wiese, H Jantjies, E Jantjies, Steyn.