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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Marcus Smith’s ‘deep breathing’ and a ravenous England defence: Inside an electric Twickenham finale

England entered the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s Test match against South Africa with a two-point lead but with the visitors’ pack starting to take control.

But Eddie Jones’ side managed to withstand the pressure and emerge victorious with Marcus Smith’s last-gasp penalty. 

Telegraph Sport breaks down the key moments from the final quarter which led to the famous win.

60 mins, England 17 South Africa 15

Bend, don’t break – Malins holds up Smith 

The Springboks are looking ominous. Menacingly ominous. They absorbed England’s best shots in the first half, including two brilliantly worked tries for Manu Tuilagi and Freddie Steward, but like the villain in a horror film, they shrug off those seemingly fatal blows. 

The introduction of the “Bomb Squad” has detonated England’s set piece and maul defence. Yet they are still trailing. England’s defence is scrambling and no one is scrambling harder than Max Malins.

Moments earlier, he pulls off an effective triple tackle on Malcolm Marx, Cobus Reinach and Kwagga Smith, who knocks on. Then after a maul is brought down inches short of the line, he again frustrates Smith by getting his body under the ball to hold up the Springbok flanker. 

Add in his role in the Steward try and Eddie Jones has no doubt in labelling this Malins’ best game for England. “He has got great pace, he has got a good feel for the game and defensively he is improving all the time,” Jones said. 

Yet as Jones was keen to emphasise the greatest credit has to go to new defence coach Anthony Seibold who has installed a ravenous approach among England’s players towards guarding their goalline. 

65 mins, England 24 South Africa 18

Gleeson running lines create Quirke try

England remain under the cosh. South Africa now have the lead and the momentum of a boulder rolling down a mountain. Enter a Martin Gleeson party piece.

England have a lineout just inside their own half. Courtney Lawes wins quick ball off the top feeding it down to Raffi Quirke who throws a long mispass to Henry Slade. If you look at the overhead angles, the position of the England backs are almost identical to the strike move that led to the Steward’s first half try. 

As a result, outside centre Lukhanyo Am starts to drift wide which opens a space for Joe Marchant to latch on to Slade’s no-look pass. Quirke runs the perfect support line to send Twickenham into raptures.

Afterwards Jones says this try had Gleeson’s fingerprints all over it. “We’ve been working on some running lines against a rush defence and Marchant ran a beautiful line which allowed him to get into the gap,” Jones said. “That’s the quality of Martin’s coaching. It was absolutely outstanding.

“This has been the focus of our autumn campaign and we didn’t want to attack the way they wanted us to attack. We either wanted to attack really tight or we wanted to attack fairly wide, where they’re not usually attacked.”

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