England fell short in Yokohama as South Africa won the World Cup for a record-equalling third time with a comprehensive 32-12 victory.
South Africa dominated throughout and wrapped up victory in the final quarter with tries from wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.
Here, the PA news agency looks how English expectation that Eddie Jones’ side would write their names in to rugby history turned into despair for fans both at home and abroad.
Rugby clubs and pubs all over England were full before 9am as fans hoped for a repeat of World Cup glory under Sir Clive Woodward in 2003. Gloucestershire club Thornbury – the team where Mako and Billy Vunipola played as juniors – put on a special World Cup breakfast, and there were Tom Curry masks at the flanker’s first club Crewe and Nantwich. But the fizz fell flat as fans were ultimately left drowning their sorrows.
England’s problems seemed to begin long before kick-off with reports that the bus was late to take the team to the stadium. It went from bad to worse within three minutes of the first whistle as Kyle Sinckler was knocked out trying to tackle Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi. Sinckler collided with the shoulder of team-mate Maro Itoje and was unable to return.
Sinckler’s departure saw Dan Cole sent into the heat of battle, but it was a day to forget for the 95-times capped Leicester prop. Cole had a torrid time against Tendai Mtawarira as ‘The Beast’ lived up to his nickname. South Africa won a succession of penalties at scrum-time to gain valuable momentum that left England playing catch-up.
Jones quiet on future
England head coach Eddie Jones was unwilling to talk about his future after falling at the final World Cup hurdle. Jones has a contract until 2021 and a new deal would need to be renegotiated with the Rugby Football Union if the 59-year-old Australian is to target another tilt at World Cup glory at the 2023 tournament in France. But Jones had no wish to discuss the situation after the final, saying: “It’s not the time to discuss it now. That’s for the future but for this team there’s no reason why they can’t keep developing.”
Rainbow nation united
South Africa were in a bad place when Rassie Erasmus was appointed in March 2018. The ‘Boks were seventh in the world rankings and had lost to Italy a few months earlier. But South Africa rediscovered their physicality and mental strength under Erasmus and a fractured nation could celebrate again. “Rugby is not about pressure, it’s about hope,” Erasmus said after the final. “Hope is watching the game and feeling good after. No matter your religious or political differences, for 80 minutes you agree.”
South Africa became the first side in World Cup history to lose their opening game and win the trophy. The Springboks have not conceded a try in three World Cup final appearances. They had not scored a try in the final until Makazole Mapimpi raced over with 12 minutes to go. But their second through fellow wing Cheslin Kolbe arrived just seven minutes later.