England draw comfort in Port Elizabeth
South Africa 14 England 14:England ended their tour of South Africa on a positive note as they fought back to claim a draw in the third Test IN Port Elizabeth.
Danny Care gave them an early lead by marking his international return with a try at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium but JP Pietersen looked to have given the Springboks a decisive edge just after the hour.
England did not wilt and Owen Farrell’s second penalty of a disjointed and scrappy contest played out in wet conditions secured a draw.
Farrell even had a late chance to win the game but sliced a drop-goal attempt horribly wide.
But after defeats in Durban and Johannesburg, and nine in succession in total
to the Springboks, England will have been happy to settle for only the second draw in history between the two sides.
The game never really got flowing as rain swirled around the impressive arena on Port Elizabeth’s seafront.
England went ahead with a Toby Flood penalty in the second minute but the outhalf needed treatment after a heavy collision moments later and struggled to continue.
There was a lengthy delay after the tourists were awarded another penalty as Flood readied himself and his effort dropped wide.
Morne Steyn levelled but England claimed the first try after a kick from the Springbok outhalf in open play was charged down by Tom Palmer.
Tom Johnson was halted just short of the line but the ball was quickly recycled for Care to crash over and announce his return to the grand stage. Flood was unable to convert and, still not right, was replaced by Farrell soon after.
South Africa clawed back at England’s lead and forced their way in front as Steyn landed two of the three penalty attempts he was allowed to line up in quick succession.
England were then pushed back as the Springboks began to control possession and probe forward and the visitors did well to prevent further damage.
Bryan Habana made one dangerous break but Jannie du Plessis knocked on and Jean de Villiers was hauled back after breaking free.
When the ball broke loose, Farrell quickly seized upon it and punted long downfield as England reached the break trailing 9-8.
They returned for the second half with renewed intent and Chris Ashton crashed into Gio Aplon with a fearsome tackle.
The Springboks conceded a penalty at the resulting breakdown and Farrell calmly clipped the ball between the posts to put England back ahead.
It was a lead they almost surrendered within moments as Dan Cole was penalised but Steyn, uncharacteristically, was again wayward. But the tourists’ indiscipline did cost them as Dylan Hartley, standing in as captain for the injured Chris Robshaw, was sinbinned after an offence in the ruck in the 51st minute.
South Africa did not capitalise while Hartley was off the field but, aside from a brief Ben Foden burst, they gained a measure of control.
That paid off soon after Hartley’s return. Cole put in a big hit on Aplon to stop the full-back just short of the line but England could not hold out much longer.
They were still stretched when Ruan Pienaar spun out a fine pass for Pietersen, scorer of the decisive try in the second Test, and the winger went around the outside and touch down.
With Steyn missing the conversion, England were not out of touch and mounted a spirited response with Manu Tuilagi forcing his way forward.
They had to settle for a penalty but Farrell kept his composure and drilled between the posts to level the score.
Steyn failed with a drop goal attempt as time ticked away. England looked to line up their own opportunity as they held on to possession after the final hooter but Farrell sliced his effort too low.