England’s first Test of their tour saw them face off against South Africa at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and it was an absolute thriller, but one in which they blew a huge lead to end up as the losers.
England started the game on fire and were 24-3 up inside 20 minutes, thanks to tries from Mike Brown, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell, as well as an unbelievable kick from Daly, who spilt the uprights from inside his own 60.
However, South Africa came back with a bang a clever bit of work by Faf De Klerk got them their first try, before aombination of good play from South Africa and a terrible error my Daly gave S’bu Nkosi a debut try and he got a second minutes later, finishing a wonderful move. England were separate to get to half-time with a lead but Wille Le Roux’s converted try capped off a remarkable turnaround that saw South Africa go 29-24 up, but England added three points with a late penalty to make it 29-27 at the break.
With Mako Vunipola in the sin in, Aphiwe Dyantyi extended South Africa’s lead to 39-27 but England fought back with a try of their own from Maro Itoje but a penalty to the home side made it 42-32.
However, that wasn’t the end of the action as May’s amazing run and finish, plus Farrell’s conversion, cut the defecit to three points.
Nobody would have bet against another score but England couldn’t muster one more chance, so they ended up losing a game in which they, at one stage, held a 21 point lead.
Here’s how we rated the England players after the game.
Elliot Daly - 7
A mixed bag of a first half! He opened the scoring with a monster kick at altitude, arguably one of the best kicks ever by an England player. Got the second try, finishing off a lovely move but his huge error, where he simply missed the ball, allowed South Africa to score a second try. However, a crucial tackle early in the second half prevented another certain try.
Jonny May - 8
Broke free well to eat up the yards in the build up to the first try. Came off his wing to set up the second and also played the final pass to Farrell for the third.
Henry Slade - 7
Started off with some good tackles, but really faded as the game went on.
Owen Farrell - 7
Capped off another great breakaway to get England’s third try and was immaculate as a goal kicker as usual.
Mike Brown - 7
Playing on the wing, Brown opened the scoring by muscling through a couple of tacklers and getting over the goaline.
George Ford - 8
Drew his man in well to open space for the second try, before playing a beautiful pass to May. As good as his play was for that try, his part in the third try was out of this world. He freed May to play in Farrell, who ran in untouched.
Ben Youngs - 7
His missed touch finder was crucial to the South African win. Another player who faded after a decent start.
Billy Vunipola - 6
Not one of his finest games, with the player being given the honour of walking out first ahead of teammates on his 50th cap for England.
Tom Curry - 6
Perhaps too much expected of the youngster, struggled to impose himself on proceedings.
Chris Robshaw - 6
Decent performance considering he came off one of his worst ever games in an England shirt.
Nick Isiekwe - 3
Was hooked off after just 37 minutes as Eddie Jones looked to solidify his defen
Maro Itoje - 7
His missed tackle opened up space that allowed De Klerk to get South Africa’s first try and gave away a few too many penalties. Used his long arms to finish well and keep England in the game.
Kyle Sinckler - 6
Didn’t really take his chance after being given the chance to start.
Jamie George - 6
Part of an England front row that really struggled to impose itself on the game. Two penalties from being offside.
Mako Vunipola - 6
Summed up England’s lack of discipline by getting a yellow card for a late shoulder tackle.
Brad Shields (Sub) - 5
Came on late in the first half to try and give England a bit of defensive steel.