TOKYO, 2 Nov - South Africa had the upper hand almost from the start of the final of Rugby World Cup 2019. The Springboks were never headed and no team had lost a final after leading at half-time.
At the break, the Springboks had a six-point lead, which was still six after 65 minutes. No South Africa team had scored a try in their three Rugby World Cup finals but Mazakole Mapimpi and his teammates changed that to seal the match.
England had been forced into an awkward position in their own 22 by a Willie le Roux chip, which Elliot Daly had fielded near the far touchline. Daly had avoided being pushed into touch as the Springboks would have wanted. However, two rucks later, the only option for Ben Youngs was to box-kick. Youngs kicked to a position just inside England's half. South Africa's full-back Le Roux was already in position to catch the kick.
After the kick is claimed cleanly under little pressure, Le Roux is then tackled. Three England players pile into the ensuing ruck hoping to win a turnover but South Africa recycle quickly. Faf de Klerk sees there is an opportunity on the left side. South Africa have four players there. The nearest England defender behind the first line of defence is prop Joe Marler. There is a gap the Springboks can run into if the ball is moved fast.
De Klerk passes to Lukhanyo Am who takes a few paces to fix England's defence before passing to Malcolm Marx. The replacement hooker passes as he is tackled by Owen Farrell and Mapimpi is left with a clear run. There is no chance of Marler catching him but Mapimpi still needs to get past the onrushing Billy Vunipola.
Mapimpi kicks over Billy Vunipola and slightly infield. Am has continued his run after passing to Marx and has more speed than England scrum-half Ben Youngs. England's last line of defence is Daly and he is close enough to tackle Am if he gets the ball after it bounces.
Am has also drawn Youngs to him, leaving Mapimpi free on the outside. As soon as Am has the ball in his hands, he passes left to Mapimpi and it is game over for England as he touches down unopposed, above.
Le Roux was perceived as a weakness for England to exploit before this match but it is his clever kick that initially sets up this opportunity. He is then in place to catch Youngs' clearing kick without any pressure on him.
In a match with few real opportunities for try scoring, Le Roux's play created a possibility. It needed quick thinking from De Klerk, Am (twice) and Marx to execute but all did so.
England had tried to bash the South African defensive wall down on their best opportunity. Here the Springboks used more subtle skills to score their first Rugby World Cup try in three finals and put the game beyond England's reach.