England sunk by Springboks
Steyn and de Villiers touch down in South Africa victory
Last Updated: 09/06/12 6:49pm
England put up a brave display but were ultimately beaten 22-17 by South Africa in the opening match of their three-Test series in Durban.
There was plenty for Stuart Lancaster and his men to take from the defeat, especially during a fine first-half display when they more than matched their hosts.
But South Africa's relentless physicality saw them get well on top in the second and tries from Morne Steyn - who also kicked four penalties - and Jean de Villiers ensured they ran out worthy winners.
Owen Farrell also kicked four penalties for the tourists and, while they now face an uphill task to take anything from the series, England will take belief from a strong finish which saw Ben Foden dive over for a spectacular try on the hooter.
England were given an early boost when, after Manu Tuilagi had launched the visitors' first real attack, lock Eben Etzebeth was penalised for going off his feet and Farrell landed an excellent long-range penalty.
The hosts were on terms six minutes later when a strong burst from Willem Alberts eventually led to South Africa securing a penalty of their own which Steyn landed.
But the visitors continued to hold their own with debutant Tom Johnson catching the eye with his work at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
They were forced to produce some desperate defence to keep the hosts out after Tuilagi had come up with a wonderful try-saving tackle on the rampaging Pierre Spies, but did so well before Joe Marler earned a much-needed turnover.
Having survived that scare, England hit the front again on 25 minutes when a powerful surge from Ben Morgan into the South African 22 ended with Marcell Coetzee being pinged, allowing Farrell to slot a regulation penalty.
Established a stranglehold
Again the lead was short-lived, Steyn responding in kind minutes later as England infringed at the breakdown following a strong run from de Villiers out wide on the right.
The visitors went in level at the break as Steyn surprisingly missed a third penalty opportunity when Johnson was spotted hooking the ball back into the scrum with his hand by the touch-judge.
But having finished the first half the stronger of the two teams, South Africa picked up where they had left off on the restart and began to establish a stranglehold on proceedings.
With England pinned back, the sustained pressure finally told on 48 minutes when, after Jannie du Plessis had been hauled down just short of the line, the ball was moved out wide to Steyn who forced his way over from close range.
Steyn missed the subsequent conversion and South Africa then spurned an easy chance to extend the lead as they chose to run a penalty from in front of the posts only for England to turn over.
There was, though, an air of inevitability when they did move further ahead on the hour mark with their second try. Having forced their way to the England 22, the ball was spun left to right across the field, where JP Pietersen fed de Villiers who smashed through the challenge of Mike Brown to touch down.
But again Steyn was unable to convert and, just when they looked right up against it, England responded to give themselves renewed hope - two quick attacks drawing penalties that Farrell kicked to reduce the deficit to just four points at 16-12.
Steyn rediscovered his range with the boot to restore the lead to seven after England had been caught offside when stretched in their own 22 with ten minutes remaining.
The lead was back to ten when replacement Paul Doran-Jones was penalised at his first scrum to give Steyn another shot at the posts, but England finished on a high and, after several patient phases by the South African line, Foden dived over in the right corner for a try which was eventually awarded by the TMO.