The England Under-18 team on Saturday handed the SA Schools side their first defeat in four years in the International Under-18 Series in Stellenbosch as they secured a 30-22 victory in a nail-biting encounter.
The big difference between the teams was England’s ability to convert their point-scoring chances into points, while mistakes at crucial times came at a high price for the hosts.
The defeat followed a 40-15 victory against Wales at Outeniqua Park in George and a 28-13 victory against France respectively.
England dominated territory and possession in the first 25 minutes and they used most of their try-scoring chances, which forced them onto the front foot early on.
England wing Roti Segan scored the first try in the first ten minutes after scrumhalf Will Homer spread the ball out wide, which allowed Segan to use his pace to outsprint two defenders for a 7-0 lead.
England lock Joe Batley scored their second try two minutes later after another fantastic pass out wide, which allowed them to take advantage of an overlap.
SA Schools fullback, Curwin Bosch, however, managed to reduce the gap to 14-3 with a penalty.
But England’s impressive attacking play saw them secure their third try of the half a few minutes later after outside centre Max Clarke gathered an effective pass and forced his way through two defenders to stretch their lead to 19-3.
Centre Harry Mallinder had a chance to extend their lead further in the 25th minute, but his penalty attempt went wide.
SA Schools wing Keanu Vers, however, scored a vital try for the hosts four minutes before half time after an encouraging attacking display in which they retained possession and applied pressure on England. With momentum on their side they spread the ball to the left wing and Vers dived underneath an England defender to score their first try of the match and reduce the deficit to 19-8.
England continued their fine form two minutes into the second half by winning a lineout steal in SA’s red zone, which flank Sam Underhill capitalised on to sprint to the tryline for their fourth try of the match and a 24-8 lead.
Vers, however, hit back in the 43rd minute with his second try after the SA Schools team gathered a loose ball and passed the ball to Vers, who used his pace to touch down. This reduced the score to 24-15.
The try bolstered the home team’s confidence on attack and they again put together phases and worked their way into England’s 22. The visitors’ lock Kieran Treadwell received a yellow card for playing the ball on the ground, but the hosts were unable to take advantage of the extra player as unforced errors cost them on a few occasions.
England flyhalf Rory Jennings, meanwhile, added three points to his team’s score with a penalty in front of the posts in the 55th minute to build up a 27-15 lead.
The SA Schools team, however, fought their way back into the match in the last 10 minutes with centre JT Jackson scoring their third try following a fantastic run up the wing by Vers, who handed off after drawing two defenders. Bosch converted to reduce the gap to 27-22 with six minutes to go.
This, however, was short-lived as the visitors slotted over a penalty in the next run of play to take a 30-22 lead.
The hosts had an opportunity to reduce the gap to one point with a late try, but Ver’s pass failed to find the support player two minutes from time, which secured England the eight-point victory.
In the earlier matches the SARU Regional Academy XV registered a 48-29 victory against Italy and Wales pipped France 10-9 in a hard-fought encounter.
SA Schools 22 (8) – Tries: Keanu Vers (2), JT Jackson. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Curwin Bosch.
England 30 (19) – Tries: Roti Segan, Joe Batley, Max Clarke, Sam Underhill. Conversions: Rory Jennings (2). Penalties: Harry Mallinder (2).