- England Women U20 on the wrong end of result in tight encounter
- Canada next Nations Cup opponents (Sunday, July 14, 5pm)
England Women U20 kicked off their U20 Nations Cup campaign with an agonising 24-22 defeat against South Africa at Trent College, Long Eaton.
Head Coach Amanda Bennett’s side had fought their way to a 22-21 lead with minutes remaining, but a well taken penalty kick from South African full back Kirsten Conrad secured the win for the visitors.
England started brightly and full back Georgia Peedle scored the opening try after an excellent wide pass drew the defence leaving a gap for her to exploit from 50 metres out. The teams were evenly matched with no further scores until just before half-time when South Africa were awarded a penalty, which Conrad slotted over from 20 metres.
The action continued straight after the break when South Africa were awarded another penalty, again successfully kicked by Conrad. Four minutes later South Africa had their first try when winger Bulela Owane got the recycle from the scrum to score on the right wing.
England pulled one back halfway through the second half, executing a well-worked overlap that ended with Rochelle Smith handing off to power over in the corner. However, the South Africans were soon back on the scoresheet with two tries in quick succession, first from No. 8 Faith Tshauke and then flanker Estha Mahlangu.
But England weren’t quite finished and the pack worked hard to win quick ball in the South African 22m leading to Rosie Kells scoring on the right wing with a well-taken finish.
Fran Hall then got in on the action a few minutes later when consecutive penalties in the South Africa 22 allowed her to get through just under the posts. The conversion went over off the post from Florence Williams.
With the score at 22-21 the scene was set for a nervous last few minutes and England were penalised for going off their feet with Conrad able to slot home the resulting kick.
England applied sustained pressure and twice came close to making it over the line but time got away from them and South Africa ran out 24-22 victors.
England’s next game will be at 5pm on Sunday, when they will take on Canada who beat the USA 25-15.
Following the match Bennett said: “The overall feeling is of course disappointment. You could see from the players as they walked off the pitch that it really mattered to them. We wanted to start the tournament well but we were up against a highly motivated and athletic South Africa team.
“Losing hurts, particularly after we worked so hard to get back into the game in the second half – we showed real character – but you often learn more about a team in defeat than a victory so we’ll be looking to learn the lessons from this game and take them into the next game against Canada on Sunday. The good thing is that we’ve set the standard pretty high.”