- England Saxons beat South Africa A in first of two match series
- Three first half tries the difference
England Saxons beat South Africa A 24-32 in Bloemfontein thanks to a clinical first half display.
The Saxons led 22-3 at the break after three tries from Alec Hepburn, Samesa Rokoduguni and Dan Robson with Danny Cipriani adding two conversions and a penalty.
However, South Africa A fought back in the second period hauling themselves to within a point thanks to tries from Francois Brummer, Piet Van Zyl and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
The Saxons held on and a try from Ollie Devoto with two minutes remaining sealed the win in the first of the two match series.
GAME OF TWO HALVES
As dominant as the Saxons were in the first half, they had to dig deep to survive a tough fightback from the hosts. By the 60-minute mark, South Africa A had emptied their entire bench – and they made a huge impact in defence, attack and at scrum time. The hosts clawed their way back to within one point with ten minutes remaining only for the Saxons to strike back.
Here's the best of the action shots of the first half. Robson, Rokoduguni and Tompkins all impressed. SA 3 - 22 SAX pic.twitter.com/9UY5huvLRw— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 10, 2016
All three of the Saxons' first half tries came as a result of turnovers, displaying the sharp counter attacking threat of the Saxons team.
For the first, Nick Tompkins intercepted a loose pass to break away and a phase later Hepburn went over in the corner. For the second, openside Matt Kvesic stole the ball at the breakdown, which allowed a wide pass to Rokduguni to get free and chip over the last man to score.
The third came after a knock-on forced by defensive pressure, which Tompkins latched on to and Robson finished with a mazy run.
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Saracens 20-year-old centre Nick Tompkins was a constant threat in attack, with a direct hand in two of England's tries. The former England U20 player had the hosts on the back foot for most of the evening in an impressive display. He was backed up by his centre partner Devoto, who won his first senior cap against Wales recently.
Devoto sealed the win after Christian Wade hacked on and Sam James popped up to Devoto on the line.
"Great to get the win." Captain Attwood pleased with win pic.twitter.com/Fmv32F6KxC— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 10, 2016
Saxons Head Coach Ali Hepher said his attention would now turn to clinching the series next week in George and fine tuning some areas of the performance.
"We could have gone about it a bit better in the second half but hats off to the guys, they dug in at the end and came away with a crucial score to close the game," he said.
"I'm really pleased. We've set up an opportunity to try and win the series now. We are already thinking towards next week and we'll start preparing for that."
He added: "It will be little tweaks within our game. The large part of it is there, like the attitude. We can build on that. We are in good shape."