Heartbreak for battling England as South Africa snatch late semi-final victory

By Sports Desk October 21, 2023

England collapsed to an agonising 16-15 defeat against South Africa at the Stade de France as they allowed a place in Saturday’s World Cup final against New Zealand to slip from their grasp.

Steve Borthwick’s men led by nine points in the final quarter but their wet-weather masterclass began to fade as the ‘Bomb Squad’ made their presence felt for the Springboks, especially in the scrum.

It was on the back of their set-piece ascendancy and the generalship of replacement fly-half Handre Pollard that the tables turned in a sodden Paris.

RG Snyman barged over for the only try of the match in the 70th minute and Pollard nailed a tricky conversion, setting up heart-stopping finish to a Test that was enthralling throughout.

The world champions were still two points behind but up stepped man-of-the-match Pollard to land the killer blow with two minutes left, nailing a penalty from just inside England’s half.

England’s players sank to their knees at the final whistle, their hearts broken having given their all in a rematch of the 2019 final despite being distant outsiders, and it was an especially cruel moment for Owen Farrell given his outstanding night.

Farrell was at the heart of many of his side’s best moments and although the captain drew the now customary boos when his name was read out on the PA system pre-match, he replied by drawing first blood with a penalty.

Breakdown and line-out success, as well as Ben Earl blasting off the base of the scrum, were further early wins until a promising drive downfield ended with Farrell kicking his second penalty.

Three times in a row England turned over South African line-out drives, winning a penalty on the third of them to relieve the pressure that was building on their line.

Every aspect of an arm wrestle of a contest was being won by England, but they were also their own worst enemies as they gave away three needless penalties, one of them for a moment of petulance from Farrell that allowed Manie Libbok to land three points.

His eyes bulging, Farrell was playing on the edge and had to be escorted away from referee Ben O’Keeffe, but he regained his composure to re-establish the six-point lead.

Libbok became the fall guy for South Africa’s woes when he was replaced in the 32nd minute by Pollard in the hope the 2019 World Cup winner would bring greater control.

Pollard’s first involvement was to boot a penalty and growing tension was evident as errors crept into both sides, but when Farrell found the target for the fourth time, England entered the break with a deserved 12-6 lead.

Rookie Leicester lock George Martin had been at the forefront of red rose resistance through his savage tackling and as the rain continued to fall there was no prospect of the game opening up.

Scrum-half Cobus Reinach and full-back Damian Willemse were the next to be pulled by South Africa, who now had Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux on the field, and then Eben Etzebeth followed them into the dugout.

The changes were a reflection of England’s control and just as the Springboks appeared to be clawing their way into contention, Farrell rifled over a sensational drop-goal.

England’s captain was striking gold with every touch as a wicked crossfield grubber caused Kurt-Lee Arendse to fumble, but South Africa were beginning to harvest penalties at the scrum.

Suddenly the Springboks went up a gear, their pack pouring forwards from a line-out for Snyman to score.

It was now all South Africa, who had discovered a new lease of life, and when the moment for glory came, Pollard stepped up to deliver his monster penalty.

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    The Schools Ticketing Programme, a central element of this initiative, is designed to immerse young minds in the thrill of cricket, offering them the opportunity to witness international matches and develop a lasting passion for the sport.

    CWI President, Dr. Kishore Shallow, underscored the importance of cultivating a strong cricket culture across the region, and this he said reflects his administration’s ongoing commitment to youth engagement and sports development.

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    "This Schools Ticketing Programme initiative is about more than just watching a game; it's about creating a connection with the sport that can inspire future generations,” he added.

    Recently-elected Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) President Dr. Donovan Bennett, expressed enthusiasm for the initiative and its potential impact.

    "We are thrilled to collaborate with CWI for this Schools Ticketing Programme. This initiative promotes cricket and instils values of teamwork, discipline, and perseverance in our young people," he said.

    "By exposing students to live cricket matches, they are getting a deeper understanding and appreciation for the game. This experience is invaluable for their personal and athletic development,” Dr. Bennett noted.

    West Indies won Thursday’s first game by 28 runs. The remaining two matches of the series are scheduled for Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 at the same venue. Start time is 2:00pm.

  • King leads the way as West Indies see off South Africa in T20I opener King leads the way as West Indies see off South Africa in T20I opener

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    It was a welcome return of international cricket to Sabina Park, even moreso for stand-in captain Brandon King, who led from the front as West Indies downed South Africa by 28 runs in the first of their three Twenty20 (T20) warm-up encounters on Thursday.

    King, who is leading the team for the first time on his home soil, gave the decent size crowd much to cheer about with a well-played 79 off 45 balls, which assisted the Caribbean side to 175-8 from their allotment, before Matthew Forde (3-27), Gudakesh Motie (3-25) and Obed McCoy (2-15), restricted South Africa to 147 in 19.5 overs.

    Despite the absence of the main scoreboard –which has been out for almost four years now –as well as an underprepared tabled press area, King and company ensured that the first international game at the venue since 2022, was a successful one.

    The 29-year-old, who is deputizing for compatriot Rovman Powell, attributed his Player-of-the-Match knock, which included six fours and six maximums, to the familiar conditions.

    “Obviously it is leading up to the World Cup so we want to be playing good cricket and we got the win today, so we are happy with that and I think we played well all around,” King said in a post-game interview.

    “I had the advantage of knowing the conditions well and I know that it is easiest to bat when it’s the new ball so I had to try and get a good start and I executed well. At the mid-way point I think we had 200-220 in mind as we had wickets in hand but it is a difficult wicket to bat on when the ball gets older, but we still managed to get a competitive total on this wicket,” he added.

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    The skipper continued to take the South African bowlers to task, before he eventually went, reaching for one of Andile Phehlukwayo that came off the toe of the bat and was caught by his opposite number Rassie van der Dussen.

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    Captain Rassie van der Dussen (17) and Matthew Breetzke (19) were the only other South African batsmen to reach double figures.

    The second and third games of the series are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, at the same venue, ahead of the much-anticipated June-1-29 T20 World Cup hosted in the Caribbean and United States.

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