x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Springboks move through the gears

South Africa beat a determined England; Australia hold off Wales in Brisbane while New Zealand thrash Ireland in a bumper day of international friendly matches.

Wycliff Palu is tackled by Gethin Jenkins.
Wycliff Palu is tackled by Gethin Jenkins.

South Africa gave a winning start to new coach Heyneke Meyer with a 22-17 victory over England in the first Test in Durban on Saturday.

The Springboks turned in a dominant second-half performance with flyhalf Morne Steyn and new captain Jean De Villiers crossing for tries after Steyn and his opposite Owen Farrell had traded penalties to send the teams into the break locked at 6-6.

South Africa took control of the match after the resumption and, while winger Ben Foden scored a consolation try for England with time up on the clock, the final result was never in doubt. The victory was South Africa's eighth successive over England and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.

Australia defended grimly to weather a fierce second-half assault and prevail 27-19 over Wales on Saturday in the first match of their three-test series.

Trailing 17-3 minutes after the break, Wales closed the gap to just a point after a try to winger Alex Cuthbert in the 58th minute and some accurate kicking in tricky conditions by fullback Leigh Halfpenny on a drizzly night at Lang Park. But Wallabies inside centre Pat McCabe eased the pressure with a try 10 minutes later and the hosts made a series of desperate tackles to deny the tourists in front of a crowd of more than 42,000.

"We had a lot of fun out there it was great to play in front of a crowd like this," Wallabies skipper David Pocock said in a pitchside interview. "There was a huge focus on the breakdown. Both teams did pretty well there."

The defeat continues Wales' winning drought in Australia and gives the Wallabies a 1-0 lead in the series, with the second Test in Melbourne next weekend.

Winger Julian Savea celebrated a spectacular first test appearance with a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand beat Ireland 42-10 at Eden Park in Auckland.

The victory ensured the All Blacks continued their unbeaten run against Ireland, which now spans 25 matches over 107-years.

It also gave new coach Steve Hansen a winning start to his tenure after serving eight years as an assistant to Graham Henry.

Hansen, who described centre Conrad Smith as "simply outstanding", said there was still considerable room for improvement.

"There were a couple of tries we blew," he said. "We started the week out with one purpose and that was to have a performance we could be proud of and we've got to be proud of what we did under the circumstances of first time coming together. But, clearly there's still a lot we can work on."

Savea capped his memorable debut inside the first 40 minutes with two of his three tries.

The first came after the All Blacks fielded a clearing kick inside their own half, spread the ball wide and committed defenders to give the big winger an overlap down the touchline.

The next try originated after Ireland had been hot on attack, but aggressive defence from Conrad Smith and captain Richie McCaw forced a turnover.

Three passes and a clever kick later, the All Blacks had an attacking lineout five metres out.

The field position gave them the opportunity to attack from a quick ruck shortly and Savea smashed over in the tackles of prop Cian Healy and scrumhalf Connor Murray.

Flyhalf Daniel Carter's conversion gave the world champions a 23-3 lead at the break after he had earlier slotted three penalties, two from more than 50 metres out, and converted Savea's first try.

Jonathan Sexton scored Ireland's only points in the first spell, but the visitors were unlucky not to have more after they dominated much of the first 10 minutes and showed a willingness to play a high-tempo game with the ball in hand.

Savea completed his hat-trick shortly after the break when he was run into space by Israel Dagg after another sweeping movement.

Fergus McFadden brought the large contingent of Irish fans to their feet when he was the first player to a speculative kick from Sexton following a turnover deep inside Ireland's own half.

Replacement loose forward Adam Thomson scored a simple try following an attacking scrum with about 25 minutes remaining.

Smith completed the scoring with 78th minute try that Carter converted.

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