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Captain Owen Farrell’s 20 points and a Jonny May try earned England a much-needed consolation victory from their tour of South Africa as the visitors won 25-10 at Newlands.
While England’s performance was anything but polished they made the most of South Africa’s ill-discipline as the hosts – who won the series 2-1 – conceded 14 penalties to six and made 13 handling errors.
Farrell punished the Springboks as he kicked through five of his first six goal attempts to earn a 15-10 lead going into the final quarter, before May’s try killed off England’s five-test losing streak with a flourish.
When a knock-on gifted England possession midway into South Africa’s half, five-eighth Danny Cipriani sent a raking kick into the right corner where man-of-the-match May, who scored in the previous two tests, pounced again.
It was a rare piece of flair in an otherwise error-strewn game, which was played on the back of two hours of relentless winter rain.
Neither side able to develop any momentum in the first half.
Despite finding themselves on the right side of the penalty count for the first time in the series, as well as earning more turnovers, England spent much of the opening 40 minutes without the ball and inside its own half due to poor handling and trouble in the lineout.
England still went into the break 6-3 up, thanks in part to flyhalf Elton Jantjies’ poor game for South Africa.
Handed a rare start ahead of Handre Pollard, Jantjies missed an early penalty attempt, dropped a pass that led to Farrell’s second successful kick, and made his first contribution to the second half a knock-on.
The England scrum led to a penalty, which Farrell kicked to put England six points ahead.
South Africa bounced back with its only try of the game.
As the Springboks advanced on the English try-line, fullback Warrick Gelant took up the position of first receiver and sent a grubber in behind the defence for Jesse Kriel to score and put South Africa 10-9 ahead.
Yet the home side’s lead lasted just four minutes, as Farrell kicked a fourth penalty.
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus replaced Jantjies with Pollard, but it was too late as England took control with two more penalties and May’s try.
It could have been worse for South Africa but centre Henry Slade knocked on an interception chance in the dying stages of the game with the try-line at his mercy.