England defeat world champions in thriller

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Marcus Smith kept his nerve to land a last-gasp penalty as England partially avenged their 2019 World Cup final defeat by toppling South Africa 28-27 in an enthralling climax to the autumn.

Smith kicked the decisive points with just over a minute left to prevent the Springboks from completing a comeback victory on a Saturday afternoon of high drama at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones' men overcame the early loss of Manu Tuilagi, who was injured while in the act of scoring the opening try, to build a 17-6 lead with the outstanding Freddie Steward also crossing.

South Africa showed resilience in the face of the storm, doggedly defending their line and relying on Handre Pollard's boot knowing they had won their last three games despite trailing at half-time.

At times England looked willing victims as they gave away penalty after penalty and with their lead eroded by Pollard, they seemed increasingly powerless to stop the momentum shift.

For much of the second half they were entrenched inside their 22, fighting hard for every yard and Pollard eventually kicked the Springboks ahead in the 64th minute.

Defences had reigned but in the space of four minutes they were momentarily shredded as Raffi Quirke and Makazole Mapimpi exchanged slick tries to usher in a nerve-shredding final 10 minutes.

Francois Steyn booted a penalty but South African captain Siya Kolisi was sent to the sin-bin for the last five minutes and England pounced through 22-year-old fly-half Smith when the Springboks were penalised for going off their feet.

Smith faced along delay before the kick and he said: "It was mental, having to wait so long. The referees were checking the TMO. It made it more nerve-racking. The boys around me backed me.

"Once I hit the kick it was like slow motion. It was so emotional for me. To properly celebrate at the end was amazing. This group will never forget that day."

"We dug in, we fought," said Steward, who had to field a stream of high kicks at fullback. "South Africa are so physical and you can't shy away from that.

"It was a whole squad effort and it was unbelievable."

He added after his second successive man of the match performance: "The last time we played South Africa I was watching in a student bar."

"Our young guys will learn so much in a test like that where South Africa keep coming at you with that intensity and you learn what test rugby is about," said England coach Eddie Jones. "That's a proper test tonight - I'm really pleased."

"Very disappointed with the loss," Kolisi said. "It was a great game - both teams turned up - and it was a pity we couldn't finish strong this tour.

"They defended well and we made a couple of mistakes. Getting so close to their line and not capitalizing made it tough for us."

The South Africans have been on the road for months starting with games in Australia to finish off the Rugby Championship, and Kolisi added: "It was a pity that we couldn't finish strong but I'm proud of the way the boys pushed up even when we made a few mistakes.

"We never make excuses, we will take it in our stride as we are grateful that we get to play this game of rugby - it's been a tough year."

With AP, Reuters

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