The dream is dead.
Once again, England have been bullied and bruised by the South Africans in the biggest game in rugby. The Springboks were well worth their victory on Saturday, whilst Eddie Jones’ recruits looked out of place. It was not the performance of World Cup finalists and they duly paid the price.
Two late tries brought a resounding end to England’s hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, though they were a firm second best for the entirety of the contest in Yokohama, struggling to cope with the scrum power and the metronomic boot of Handre Pollard.
Here’s how each of the England players got on:
Mako Vunipola – 5
Mako was a useful ball-carrier as Jones’ men tried to pummel their way through the South African defence, selflessly offering his services. However, neither he nor his teammates had too much success in that regard, with the prop’s also having issues at scrum-time.
Jamie George – 6
Another who continuously charged at the Boks line and another who was continuously rebuffed. A couple of dodgy lineout throws were frustrating to see, though they weren’t as concerning as some other areas of England’s play. A brave display, albeit in vain.
Kyle Sinckler –n/a
The match had barely begun when Sinckler hobbled off through injury. How Jones missed the power of the Harlequins star.
Maro Itoje – 7
Itoje was far and away England’s best tackler on Saturday, making 16 in a strong showing. He couldn’t help wrestle momentum from Rassie Erasmus’ side, but nonetheless gave his all in a valiant attempt to turn the tide.
Courtney Lawes – 5
Those pesky lineout problems resurfaced when it mattered most, Lawes looking rather suspect there. It triggered a change in personnel at the break as George Kruis was sent on to fix things, the coach evidently unimpressed, despite some promising line-breaks from the Northampton Saints lock.
Tom Curry – 7
Curry has been the standout performer for the Red Roses in Japan and, yet again, worked tirelessly to pressurise his opponents. Unfortunately, South Africa kept their composure and dealt effectively with the threat of the 21-year-old, though he did secure a handful of notable turnovers.
Sam Underhill – 7 (MOTM)
Up against a phenomenal, beastly backrow of Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisis, and Pieter-Steph du Toit, the flanker more than held his own. There were some sizeable hits from Underhill in a strong defensive showing, with his the standout displays of any of the men in white.
Billy Vunipola – 6
Billy did what he has done all tournaments: suck in numbers. As was the case with his previous matches in the Far East, the giant struggled to get any go-forward at Yokohama International Stadium, the South Africans shackling him well and minimising his impact.
Ben Youngs – 3
Kicking. That was pretty much the only area in which Youngs showed his true capabilities. Aside from his accuracy with the boot, he was untidy, hesitant, and a detriment to his team. You’ll never win a World Cup final with such an erroneous showing from your scrum-half. He didn’t look a patch on Faf de Klerk.
George Ford – 4
Ford wasn’t exactly bad over the weekend; he simply came up against a world-class South African pack, who gave him practically no time and space to create anything for England. As a result, there was no penetration and danger coming from further down the backline.
Jonny May – 6
There’s almost nothing to say about May’s attacking display after he was starved of the ball. Defensively – on the other hand – he did himself justice, keeping a watchful eye on the dazzling feet of Cheslin Kolbe.
Owen Farrell – 5
Farrell kept England within touching distance with his kicking from the tee, but far more was needed from Jones’ talisman. His game was summed up by a wayward attempt to tackle Kolbe in the closing minutes, the winger skinning him to seal his country’s third World Cup triumph.
Manu Tuilagi – 5
Where was the authority and vigour that dominated the All Blacks a week prior? Tuilagi was suffocated versus the Springboks, only occasionally getting gainline success.
Anthony Watson – 5
Watson touched the ball a grand total of five times, which should be of no surprise. He was peripheral as England failed to get any fluidity or structure to their play.
Elliot Daly – 6
The fullback handled the high kicks that came raining down upon him, yet did little else. Daly’s defence was solid, having been left exposed by those in front of him.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 5
Cowan-Dickie made his entrance with England still alive in the contest. A forgettable performance ensured he and the Red Roses left the field as runners-up.
Joe Marler – 5
Likewise ineffective versus the mighty Boks.
Dan Cole – 3
Cole got annihilated by Tendai Mtawarira in the scrums, seriously hampering English chances in Yokohama. This is surely the end of his international career after the veteran proved how much of a downgrade he is to Sinckler.
George Kruis – 7
The lineout appeared to take a boost when Kruis was brought on at half-time. The Saracen was typically industrious and was comfortably Jones’ best performer from the bench.
Mark Wilson – 6
Try as he did, Wilson couldn’t stem the flow of an increasingly one-sided affair.
Ben Spencer – n/a
Didn’t make it off the bench until the very end.
Henry Slade – 6
Slade had limited opportunity to show his fine repertoire of skills, occasionally looking like he’d create some magic, before inevitably being shut down.
Jonathan Joseph – n/a
May as well have stayed on the touchline.
By Ed Alexander