A match-saving tackle by Owen Farrell in the final seconds of England’s 12-11 victory over South Africa has led to varied views

Owen Farrell tackle divides opinion

There was plenty of drama in the last minute at Twickenham. England led 12-11 in the closing stages as South Africa launched waves of attack, then Owen Farrell produced a huge hit on Andre Esterhuizen to force a turnover that allowed the hosts to clear for touch.

Then just as England started to celebrate an important victory the TMO asked to check the final tackle, which left both players sprawled on the ground.

It did look high from Farrell, although more in the neck/throat area than the head, and it was a big hit with the shoulder with little wrapping of the arms.

Yet referee Angus Gardner ruled that there was enough of an arm to count as a tackle so no foul play, no penalty, no card. Cue renewed celebrations from England.

Owen Farrell tackle divides opinion

Opening win: England celebrate their win in the first of four autumn Tests (Getty Images)

With the current clampdown on high and dangerous tackles it did surprise some in the crowd that there was not at least a penalty, which would, of course, have given the Springboks a chance of victory.

The decision has divided opinion on social media too. England centre Jonathan Joseph applauded the tackle…

Brian O’Driscoll also thought the referee’s call was correct…

Ross Tucker, who has worked with World Rugby on the new high tackle laws, tweeted…

Others felt Farrell was lucky not to be penalised…

Here’s a clip of the last Owen Farrell tackle so you can decide for yourself…

That incident in the final minute is the big talking point – and people will no doubt be waiting to see if Farrell is cited – but the fact England showed the resilience and determination to secure this victory against a South Africa side that was so dominant in the first half should not be ignored.

England had just 34% possession and 22% territory in the first 40 minutes – and didn’t make it into the South Africa 22 once.

Yet they trailed just 8-6 at the break, with the Springboks’ errors costing them, particularly Malcolm Marx’s three overthrows at lineouts in good attacking positions. The Boks might also now regret their decisions to kick for touch rather than for the posts.

The hosts’ kicking game improved after the break and there was a doggedness to their performance, with Mark Wilson deservedly Man of the Match and Henry Slade also impressing defensively.

Farrell and Handre Pollard exchanged penalties in their first half hour of the second period before England won an important scrum penalty in the 72nd minute and Farrell slotted it from five metres inside the touchline to give his team a 12-11 lead.

Owen Farrell tackle divides opinion

Key penalty: England celebrate the decisive scrum penalty (Getty Images)

Pollard missed a penalty attempt of his own four minutes later, the ball rebounding off the outside of the post, but South Africa came again with ball in hand.

Farrell had an important intervention with that first attack too, forcing a knock-on by ripping the ball from Lood de Jager’s grasp when the Bok was five metres from the line.

That allowed England to gain possession and clear, but South Africa then attacked from the lineout as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. The hosts’ defence was resolute, keeping the Boks pinned back, and when Esterhuizen ran a looping arc, Farrell stepped in to make that decisive hit.

Match won – and an important result for England as they prepare to face New Zealand next week. Now they will be hoping the citing officer has a similar opinion of the tackle to Gardner.

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