Siya Kolisi praises South Africa for "ugly" win as ROG marvels at Pollard beauty
ROG was not the only one that felt England had done enough.
The Springboks got the job done, but it was much tighter than most of us could have ever imagined. Ronan O'Gara was certainly starting to believe England could get it locked.
South Africa remain on course to become only the second nation to retain their World Cup trophy. The only side left in their way are the only side to have achieved the feat before - New Zealand.
England led the reigning world champions from the third minute until the 78th minute, but an South Africa comeback inspired by subs Handré Pollard, RG Snyman and Ox Nche saw them pip Steve Borthwick's men with a late penalty.
For the longest stretch, though, it looked as though England would upset the odds and head for the final, next weekend. Watching on, like the rest of us, La Rochelle head coach, and former Ireland outhalf Ronan O'Gara observed, 'Sometimes the underdog can win... stay in the moment'.
By the time Owen Farrell nailed a drop goal from 46 metres out, to put England 15-6 clear, O'Gara was full-on believing the Boks would be beaten.
Calling it.. England in RWC final.. what a performance
— Ronan O Gara (@RonanOGara10) October 21, 2023
South Africa trailed by two scores but an RG Snyman try, after a rollicking maul move, made it 15-13. The South African scrum was starting to dominate, though, and there was still 10 minutes left.
It would come down to a scrum penalty won by the Boks, given against Ellis Genge, and Pollard stepped up to nervelessly put his side ahead. O'Gara may well have jinxed it for England by calling it with 15 minutes to play.
TADHG FURLONG, THE GAA PRODIGY
Ronan O'Gara praise for Handré Pollard
Following the 16-15 win for South Africa, England head coach Steve Borthwick was too deflated to get into any of the match particulars or refereeing calls.
"If you want to chat later in the week, I'll give you a proper analysis," he told reporters.
"As for the gameplan, we're playing against a coaching team who have been in place since 2018. We've had four months. I've asked the players to approach training and the game in a different way; for the players to be willing to change is all credit to them. Tonight was another example of that."
"I'm sat here disappointed but unbelievably proud," added England captain Owen Farrell. "It's not all gone our way but to build up to a performance like we did today, ultimately to come short to a great team like South Africa, I am sat here disappointed but unbelievably proud of what this group has done over the past five months together."
"England is a world-class team, completely different to what they were a year ago," observed South Africa captain Siya Kolisi. "They had an amazing game plan today which we took a long time to adapt to.“These things happen. The thing I take out of this game is the fact that we were able to dig deep and fight to get that victory. We are so grateful that we can be in the position to defend the cup again. A lot of teams wouldn’t be able to to get out of that and get a win like that. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is. South Africa won, that is all we needed."
The final word goes to Ronan O'Gara as he marvelled at the steel of Pollard for that match-winning penalty, a stride inside the England half. "You have no idea how good that is,' he declared.
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