England ultimately cruised to a first victory in 10 years over South Africa, scoring four tries to two in a 37-21 win at a wet Twickenham.
Pat Lambie’s boot opened up an early 6-0 lead for the Springboks, however as the minutes ticked over England grew stronger, leading 20-9 at half-time thanks to tries from Jonny May and Courtney Lawes combined with the boots of Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly.
Johan Goosen did hit back for South Africa in the second half, however the result looked settled by then as George Ford and Farrell touched down either side of Goosen’s effort.
This was England’s tenth straight win this year, and they remain unbeaten ahead of the visit of Fiji next weekend. Even today, off their best, they were impressive with South Africa no match for Eddie Jones’s side once England found their groove.
England’s start to November was far from smooth, coughing up four penalties in around ten minutes, one of which Lambie converted for the first points of the game at 3-0. Another infringement, this time turned into a kick to the corner, set him up for a well-taken drop goal to enhance the Springboks’ lead.
But when England did come alive they made Test rugby look simple. From a lineout they flashed the ball from right to left, sucking in Lambie and De Allende towards their decoy runners before Marland Yarde, adding an extra man to the backline off his wing, and Mike Brown gave May the space he needed out wide to beat the covering Rudy Paige to score.
Lambie missed his second penalty attempt but the visitors were soon back well deep into England territory thanks to a break from Tendai Mtawaria, the subsequent penalty (another) from England allowing South Africa to attack through their maul, before Lambie chipped over from close-range to make it 9-7.
Farrell couldn’t match Lambie’s drop goal, after a scrappy passage even accounting for the poor conditions at Twickenham, before England began to make progress attacking South Africa’s defence around the fringes.
Play was stopped after Eben Etzebeth came off worse in a collision with Billy Vunipola, shortly before Farrell put England back ahead from a penalty at the scrum.
Courtney Lawes already had plenty of reason to celebrate on his 50th cap but he must have been beaming from ear to ear as he dove on a loose ball for his first Test try, coming after a comical score.
Ruan Combrinck and Willie le Roux coughed up a sliding ball after England chased Elliot Daly’s kick and from there Brown hacked forward, dribbling the ball towards the line. Lambie did his best to prevent the score, only for Lawes to pounce for a first Test try.
There was still time before the end of the half for Daly to show off his long-range ability off the tee, landing an effort from 50 metres to hand England an 11-point cushion at the break, leading 20-9.
Just as England improved with every minute South Africa started to regress, and minutes into the second half the Six Nations champions landed what looked like the hammerblow.
Ben Youngs spotted space around the fringes of the visitors’ defence – there has often been far too much of that this year – and pounced, throwing a dummy and cutting through and slowing down to carefully choose the right pass before releasing George Ford under the posts.
Farrell brought up the 30-point mark soon after from a penalty, leaving South Africa desperately in need of a spark down by 21 points on the road.
Johan Goosen was the provider, on for Lambie after 54 minutes, as South Africa finally found some space out wide through Francois Venter and Warren Whiteley to put Goosen away. Any suggestion of a forward pass by Venter was ruled out by referee Jérôme Garcès.
Farrell missed a penalty in reply but he was soon in for England’s fourth try, Youngs again sniping his way through around the fringe before his wide pass found Farrell to stroll over untouched.
South Africa did their best to take something forward into next week. Instead they had Combrinck boot a penalty to touch dead beyond the try line, summing up a demoralising afternoon.
Le Roux touched down in the corner late on, but it meant little. Meanwhile, England march on.
Tries: May, Lawes, Ford, Farrell
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 2, Daly
For South Africa:
Tries: Goosen, Le Roux
Pens: Lambie 2
Drop Goal: Lambie
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jonathan Joseph
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lionel Mapoe
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)