England's hopes of top tier dashed


International rugby review: England’shopes of a top four seeding for the 2015 World Cup ended today as South Africaextended their unbeaten run over their hosts to 11 matches, with a 16-15 win at Twickenham.

The defeat meant that England needed Samoato beat Francein Paris as the first part of a difficult combination of results that also required Stuart Lancaster’s side to beat New Zealand by more than 15 points next week.

Samoa looked like obliging at stages of the game at the Stade de France, leading 14-10 at one stage early in the second half, before France outhalf Frederik Michalak kicked the home side to a 22-14 win.

Despite defeat, Samoa moved up to eighth place in the IRB rankings, with Argentina slipping to ninth, the third tier, ahead of the World Cup draw on December 3rd.

Walesare now left in a perilous situation after their 10-33 defeat to New Zealandat the Millennium Stadium. At present Warren Gatland’s side are in seventh position, but must beat Australia next weekend to stay in the top eight. If they lose, Samoa will move up to seventh behind Ireland and Argentina move back into the second tier in eighth position.

At Twickenham, in rain and heavy conditions underfoot, ideally suited to the visitors' big forwards, Pat Lambie and Toby Flood traded penalties in the opening half as South Africa took a slim advantage.

A fortuitous try soon after the restart for powerhouse flanker Willem Alberts gave the Springboks the momentum and while England looked threatening at times, South Africa kept them at bay.

The Springboks now head home second in the rankings after also beating Ireland and Scotland on their northern hemisphere tour.

Robshaw accepted sole responsibility for the controversial late decision o kick a penalty goal which arguably cost England the chance of a victory.

England were trailing 16-12 with just over a minute remaining when Robshaw, after some apparent on-field indecision, instructed Owen Farrell to kick the goal rather than go for the corner.

Last weekend, Robshaw was criticised for not taking the points on offer as England slipped to a 20-14 defeat to Australia. He denied that experience influenced his decision today, explaining that he felt England still had time to kick the penalty and then get back down field. But they failed to gather the restart and South Africa saw out the closing seconds.

“All those decisions come down to me,” Robshaw said. “I thought we had the time to get the points and get back down there. We always look back at decisions. It was one of those where if we had won it would have been the right decision. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the result today. We will go back and look at the video and analyse it.”

Tongatriumphed in Aberdeen as Scotlandslumped to another miserable loss which is sure to pile pressure on head coach Andy Robinson.

Tries from Lua Lokotui and Connacht’s Fetu’u Vainikolo and 11 points from the boot of Fangatapu Apikotoa earned Tonga a memorable 21-15 win at Pittodrie.

Greig Laidlaw kicked five penalties for Scotland, who were blunt in attack, as Robinson’s men slumped to a third defeat of the series, following losses to New Zealand and South Africa, and 12th in the world rankings.

Australiasurvived a second-half fightback to maintain their perfect record against Italywith a 22-19 win in Florence.

The Wallabies had looked to be coasting after Nick Cummins’s second try in as many weeks helped them into a 22-3 half-time lead, but Robbie Deans’s men ground to a halt after the interval as the Azzurri sensed a first-ever win against their southern hemisphere rivals.

Robert Barbieri dived over for a converted try two minutes after the restart before a pair of Luciano Orquera penalties drew them to within three points with 25 minutes remaining. But, despite some torrid play from the Wallabies, they held on to grab back-to-back wins on their European tour after their Twickenham success over England last weekend.

World champions New Zealand destroyed Wales with a Millennium Stadiummasterclass, but they also graphically displayed the ugly side of rugby.

The All Blacks stretched their unbeaten record to 20 Tests against all opponents and inflicted a 25th successive defeat on Wales, stretching back 59 years.

Tries by flanker Liam Messam, prop Tony Woodcock and lock Luke Romano, plus 18 points from an injured Dan Carter’s deputy Aaron Cruden confirmed Wales’ worst losing run since current All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen was in charge 10 years ago.

Wales claimed consolation tries by substitute Scott Williams and wing Alex Cuthbert, yet they lost three players injured inside the opening 20 minutes, including lock Bradley Davies, who was floored by a sickening act of foul play.

All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore punched Davies from behind, and although he escaped censure from match referee Craig Joubert, citing commissioner Mike Rafter is likely to take a different view.

IRB RANKINGS(updated after November 24th matches)
1 New Zealand
2 South Africa
3 Australia
4 France

5 England
7 Wales
8 Samoa

9 Argentina
10 Italy
11 Tonga
12 Scotland

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