England versus South Africa, a match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, could not have been closer – but the fire-crackling 15-16 loss for England might not have come about just from the Springboks alone. 

The match truly began when sharpshooter and team captain Owen Farrell capitalised off two penalty kicks within the first ten minutes, setting the score 6-0 to England. Undoubtedly, some part of the England team’s hivemind was now ready to brute-force a victory, giddily assuming that as long as they made no mistakes and stayed in the lead, they would win – and perhaps they took their foot off the pedal also. 

However, another penalty quickly followed, this time for South Africa. Here is when Farrell slipped up—arguing against the referee got him hit with a little known rule: the referee can award the side taking the penalty an extra ten metres towards to the tryline, which gifted South an advantage. This closed the distance by 20%, and they scored three more points with what was described as ‘a very good kick.’ Arguably, Farrell’s lippiness aided South Africa’s comeback, and along with his two kicks from earlier, cemented him as England’s wildcard. 

Ironically, three extra points was all the Springboks needed—after the final ‘Crouch, Bind, Set!’ the ruck disintegrated, and a penalty was awarded in favour of South Africa. In the seventy-seventh minute, Pollard sent home one more ball through the goalposts, resulting in the dramatic aforementioned 16-15 loss for England—losing by one point, or just three minutes! 

In a post-game interview, a crestfallen Farrell labelled the match as a ‘diffcult loss,’ and reaffirmed that he was proud to be English – however, he failed to touch on the independent effect he may have had on the outcome. 

On the other hand, in a Virgin Media interview, Matt Williams indicated that the reason for England’s loss may have been something else entirely. ‘You cannot win games when you haven’t got your set play right,’ he acknowledged, saying that it was England’s collective clumsiness that lost the day. He added that deciding a game on penalties alone was a ‘bad place to be.’ 

In the end, Owen Farrell raised England’s score a considerable amount, and deserves much credit. Despite his mistake, it was South Africa’s strength, not England’s weakness, that determined the outcome.