Eddie Jones called for England to remain unified after comparing their series-ending 23-12 defeat by South Africa at Free State Stadium to a “horror movie”.
Frustrations boiled over after the final whistle when prop Joe Marler swore at a Springbok fan before Mike Brown continued the verbal exchange with a group of supporters and Ben Youngs walked away from a television interview.
For a second successive Test a blistering start, this time founded on tries by Mike Brown and Jonny May, was thrown away as the hosts struck back through a Duane Vermeulen touchdown and a penalty try won at the scrum.
South Africa have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series heading into the final match in Cape Town on Saturday while England are left to reflect on a sixth successive loss – a run which includes five Tests – that cranks up the pressure on Jones.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” said head coach Jones, who revealed that Billy Vunipola may have aggravated the fractured arm that forced him to miss a large chunk of the season.
“(We) started the game well. It was a bit like a horror movie wasn’t it? Almost a rerun of last week. It’s a tough period at the minute. No one likes to lose five (Test) games in a row.
“We have been through an exceptional period and now we’re going through this tough period.
“The players and coaches are putting in plenty of effort but for some reason are just not handling key moments of the game well.
“An England side is always under pressure. Whether you’re winning or losing, you’re always under pressure.
“It’s just about sticking together, understanding what you can improve and the emotions of the situation. If we do that we will get out of it.
“We wanted to get out of it after one game. Unfortunately it has gone on a bit longer, but we’ll get out of it.”
England return to their camp on the Indian Ocean on Sunday before heading to Cape Town on Wednesday to finalise preparations for the final Test, which has been rendered meaningless by their latest collapse.
“This team has a lot of pride. We’ve won back-to-back Six Nations, we’ve equalled the world record for the number of Test wins, we’ve gone to Australia and won 3-0 and now we’re going through this bloody tough period,” Jones said.
“There’s plenty of pride in there. Everyone is going to fight hard to get out of this and you’ll see an absolutely spirited effort in Cape Town.”
Warren Gatland hailed his team’s summer tour as the best of his 10-year spell with Wales after a comprehensive 30-12 win over Argentina.
Victory in Santa Fe not only sealed Wales a first series success in the land of the Pumas since 1999, but also sent Gatland’s men into third in World Rugby’s rankings, above rivals England.
Even a late red card for No 8 Ross Moriarty failed to detract from Wales’ glory as Josh Adams and Hallam Amos scored tries and fly-half Rhys Patchell ended the game with 20 points.
“It’s definitely the most pleasing tour I’ve had with Wales. A lot of people were sceptical about the trip and they’d written us off, but we’ve achieved everything we set out to do,” Gatland said.
“I thought the boys were outstanding and the performance was very good. We’re up to third in the world which is an even bigger bonus as well.
“This group of players have been outstanding both on and off the field and with the way they’ve prepared and trained, I haven’t seen a group this hungry for a while.
“It’s a great position for us to be in.”
After impressing in a 22-20 victory over South Africa in Washington and then downing the Pumas 23-10 in the first Test, Wales were even better against the South Americans second time around.
Their defensive line speed made the hosts look plain average.
Argentina’s woeful discipline allowed Patchell to kick four first-half penalties and he also converted a sublime individual try from Worcester wing Adams, his first at international level.
After the break Amos finished off a fine team move, but the only disappointment for Wales was seeing Moriarty dismissed.
The forward saw red for choking Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez around the neck late on, his actions leading to a brawl between both sides.
His leaving of the field allowed Julian Montoya to cross for a converted try in the game’s final play after Bautista Delguy had given Argentina hope just before the break.
“Ross has reacted after being hit from behind. I’m not too sure it was a red card, but you accept the referee’s decision,” Gatland said.
“In fairness to Ross, he’s disappointed in himself. He’s apologised to the player. It’s disappointing, but we won’t take too much out of that.”
Ireland levelled their Test series with Australia by pulling off a 26-21 victory in Melbourne.
There were tries from Munster wing Andrew Conway and Tadhg Furlong at AAMI Park while Johnny Sexton, returning at fly-half, excelled with the boot to propel Ireland clear.
Australia, who won the first Test 18-9, had Kurtley Beale and Taniela Tupou to thank for scoring but poor discipline cost the Wallabies dearly as Sexton was able to rack up four penalties.
Here, we take a look at some of the main takeaways from Melbourne.
It was a much improved display from the Irish.
Joe Schmidt’s men looked well-structured and efficient in attack all afternoon and their defence remained resolute anytime the Wallabies came bounding into their half.
In possession, they executed opportunities better, put more pressure on the Wallabies and their overall game management was superb as they attempted to get the ball wide to take advantage of the pace of Keith Earls and Jordan Larmour.
Any time Ireland forayed into the hosts half , they looked extremely focused, enticing Australia to get in over the top, something that referee Paul Williams was strong on the whistle, resulting in three penalties, which Sexton converted.
In defence, Ireland were granite-like, conceding no points when Cian Healy was in the sinbin on 26 minutes. In contrast, when Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete was yellow carded, Ireland took advantage and scored 16 points, through a converted Conway try and three Sexton kicks.
Sexton and O’Mahony lead by example
Returning to the starting XV after starting on the bench last week, Sexton looked instrumental.
The Leinster man is an inspirational presence and everyone around him plays better and look more confident any time he is in action.
He missed just one out of his seven kicks and put the Wallabies under pressure all day with his crisp passing ability, superb game management and clever kicks to touch.
Up front, Peter O’Mahony produced one of his best performances in an Irish jersey in recent times. He forced opponents into conceding penalties and made two vital poaches in the first-half to put the Men in Green on the front foot.
The 28-year-old tackled effectively, won his own ball comfortably and showed serious willingness in the tight areas. He was replaced with 17 minutes minute to a standing ovation.
Paying the penalty
Michael Cheika’s side didn’t bring the energy required and – apart from Beale’s early try – had few chances to light up the game, with Ireland more ruthless and aggressive.
Although they were shorn of the services of Will Genia to injury and big-name players like Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Beale failed to replicate their first Test form, the Wallabies made too many unforced errors.
Penalties that did not need to be given away was central to their undoing. They were penalised 15 times (five times in first 20 minutes) – most of which could have been avoided – and in games decided by the smallest of margins, it cost them.
In terms of missed tackles, they made 22 in comparison to Ireland’s 18, and in attack, they looked rudderless at times, with 95 runs in contrast to Ireland’s 142.
Although they crossed for a late Taniela Tupou try and dominated at scrum and line-out time, Cheika will have plenty of work to do if the Wallabies are to win the series in Sydney next week.