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Here we all are then. The first weekend in November and it’s final time at the Rugby World Cup.

Six long weeks have passed since the tournament kicked off with many teams brimming with optimism for the clashes to follow.

But the hope ends today as the last two teams standing prepare to deliver or depart empty-handed.

Hot favourites England take on a South Africa team who have seemed to get to the decider by playing well within themselves since losing their opening match against New Zealand.

Kick-off in Yokohama is at 9am, so you have time to get a hearty breakfast in you before settling in with RTE, eir Sport  or – if you’re brave enough – ITV, where the 2003 veterans are facing into leaner times after 16 years on the after-dinner circuit.

Here’s a taster of the atmosphere outside the ground. English fans do love their crusader-era gear.

england-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-final-yokohama-stadium Source: David Davies

england-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-final-yokohama-stadium Source: David Davies

England

15. Elliot Daly
14. Anthony Watson
13. Manu Tuilagi
12. Owen Farrell (captain)
11. Jonny May
10. George Ford
9. Ben Youngs 

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Kyle Sinckler 
4. Maro Itoje
5. Courtney Lawes 
6. Tom Curry 
7. Sam Underhill
8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Joe Marler 
18. Dan Cole 
19. George Kruis
20. Mark Wilson
21. Ben Spencer 
22. Henry Slade 
23. Jonathan Joseph

South Africa:

15. Willie le Roux
14. Cheslin Kolbe
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Lood de Jager
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Duane Vermeulen

Replacements:

16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Vincent Koch
19. RG Snyman
20. Franco Mostert
21. Francois Louw
22. Herschel Jantjies
23. Francois Steyn

Referee: Jérôme Garcès [France].

Rassie is winning the style stakes between the coaches anyway. He looks resplendent in his white team top, while Eddie Jones has made a brave decision to go with a baby blue number from his own wardrobe.

japan-rugby-wcup-final Source: Christophe Ena

japan-rugby-wcup-final

Here they come then, Siya Kolisi and Owen Farrell lead their teams out past that big hunk of gold they came to Japan for.

Anthems and fireworks are on the way.

KICK-OFF: Garces signals and Pollard gets the game going.

1Mins

South Africa start strong in the collisions and win a penalty. Pollard takes the tee and looks for an early sighter from about 45 metres.

He sends it wide, just right of the posts.

2Mins

Oh no. Kyle Sinckler is down injured and looks to be out stone cold.

Maro Itoje caught his tighthead with an elbow as both moved to tackle and the big prop was left motionless on the turf.

3Mins

The good news is that Kyle Sinckler is up and walking, albeit unsteadily, off the field.

Dan Cole has a long 77-minute shift ahead of him now unless Joe Marler is tasked with a tighthead role before the finish.

6Mins

That injury has left England somewhat rocked and it does change the prospects of the packs with the ‘Bomb Squad’ still to combe.

England try to play out from behind their own line and after a heart-stopping moment when the ball goes to ground, May goes clear.

England kick out and Pollard kicks a high one back and brilliantly beats Daly in the air to advance in the 22.

The ‘Boks show the type of width that was little more than a pipe dream against Wales, but the move ends in a knockon.

8Mins

You’re never truly neutral, are you? You might think you’re neutral or leaning England’s way pre-match, but your true feelings come out after kick-off.

Flag 9Mins

PENALTY! England 0 South Africa 3 (Pollard ’9)

Another handling error from England, Billy to Farrell, brings more pressure and a penalty for the ‘Boks.

16Mins

South Africa are threatening to turn the screw, winning a scrum penalty in midfield, but England twist right back with May athletically batting Pollard’s penalty back out of touch for Daly to clear.

19Mins

A big question all week has been whether England can hit the same intensity levels that accounted for the All Blacks. Not yet, is the answer after 18 minutes. 

Yet in a first quarter full of imperfection and loss of skirmishes, they are three points down and attacking the ‘Bok 22.

20Mins

Mbonambi is down injured now with what appears to be a head injury. England forced their way to double figure phases of hard carries and, with the hooker down, they almost force an overlap but Kolbe does brilliantly to halt Courtney Lawes’ progress.

England will get a penalty shot.

Flag 22Mins

PENALTY! England 3 South Africa 3 (Farrell ’21)

In week six of the tournament, it’s like the last scenes of Platoon out there.

Lood de Jager is walking off with his arm hanging out of its socket after a big, big dislocation. Mostert is on for him.

Marx is on as Mbonambi is off for a HIA and Farrell had to shake off what appeared to be a recurrence of a dead leg before setting the ball.

24Mins

Dan Cole’s long 77-minute shift is already feeling like a hard slot at 21 minutes. 

Beast is… well, beasting him at scrum time and forces a straightforward penalty for Pollard to knock over.

PENALTY!  England 3 South Africa 6 (Pollard ’24)

27Mins

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and England have been hit with a few solid rights here.

A poor pass from Youngs is followed up by an overcooked Ford kick to touch.

The Bokke in the stands cheer, but they have problems of their own with Etzebeth needing physio treatment on his shoulder.

29Mins

There’s a huge riposte. Sam Underhill clatters into Pieter Steph du Toit and his leg drive pushes the blindside backwards.

Mako Vunipola now taking treatment. This is gruelling.

30Mins

Another Underhill impact, this time on the carry is followed up by Curry getting over the gainline and England are in a rhythm pushing for a try.

Flag 35Mins

Absolutely incredible defensive set by South Africa. England were inches away and sent al the big men at the line, but every time the ‘Boks got two jerseys with solid hits.

They forced England to go wide and an overcooked pass to Watson sucks the momentum out of the move.

Farrell tries to direct traffic back to the left side, but the defence is maintained with South Africa intent on giving away a penalty to escape with just a three-point concession.

PENALTY! England 6 South Africa 6 (Farrell ’35)

Farrell argues with Garces about the level of illegality in the ‘Boks big stand, but they’ll have to be content with just a penalty.

38Mins

It’s another messy, madcap series of play as Billy V picks up a loose ball as he comes back from an offside position (but he’s not actually offside).

Vermeulen rips the ball off him to force quickfire turnovers from both sides and Pollard’s attempt to go wide is called back for England’s side entry.

PENALTY! England 6 South Africa 9 (Pollard ’38)

41Mins

The half-time gong goes, that’s 40 minutes on the clock a full 52 minutes’ worth of real-world time since this match kicked off.

Am chipped ahead from another wide South Africa attack and a poor Daly knock on brings up a penalty for Rassie’s green machine.

Flag

PENALTY! England 6 South Africa 12 (Pollard ’42)

HALF-TIME: England 6 South Africa 12

Jaysus lads that was intense.

I need a lie down or a cup of tea or something.

40Mins

Alright then, we’ve regained our bearings and we’re set up for the second half.

Can England find the maximum score they need to take a lead in this game? Or will we get another 40 minutes to suit the ‘Boks.

Flag 45Mins

The ‘Boks continue to force errors from England and they then send on Kitschoff and Koch as early second-half replacements.

And their impact is devastating and immediate, forcing another scrum penalty.

Pollard will go again from halfway… and NAILS IT.

PENALTY! England 6 South Africa 15 (Pollard ’45)

48Mins

The screw, it is a turning.

Currey carries into De Allende and Du Toit and the big hitters from the back line and the back row choke him up and force a scrum.

The scrum leads to a penalty and the South Africa pack can get themselves ready for a big flex as this game enters the melting pot.

49Mins

Here comes the roll of the dice from Eddie Jones. The brilliant Exeter centre Henry Slade is on and George Ford is pulled from out-half. 

Farrell will take the reins.

50Mins

It’s the changes in the pack that have made a difference for England, though. Joe Marler gets a big shove at the scrum and drives through Koch to win a crucial penalty for the favourites.

Flag 51Mins

PENALTY! England 9 South Africa 15 (Farrell ’51)

It’s a one-score game again.

53Mins

Well now. The tide has turned.

Pollard attempts to run a kick back after shaping to kick. He loses his feet and is penalised for holding on.

Huge chance for Farrell to halve South Africa’s lead.

54Mins

Farrell unleashes the attempt. It’s straight and spinning, but it’s inches wide of the right-hand post.

57Mins

That miss was a big reprieve for the ‘Boks. They muscle their way back into England territory and Marler is pinged for offside, cancelling out his big scrum effort if Pollard hits this as well as we think he will.

Flag 59Mins

And then straight off the restart, another coach-killer of a penalty as Malcolm Marx is called for going in from the side after Vermuelen is smashed after taking the ball in.

PENALTY! England 12 South Africa 18 (Farrell ’59)

England are a dog with a bone, refusing to let this final go.

63Mins

Romain Poite wasn’t happy to take a supporting role in this final, he pops up his flag and advises Garces that Anthony Watson checked Mapimpi before Daly claimed a high ball.

Soft penalty to concede, hard kick to take on for Pollard from 55 metres and his stinger effort falls way short.

64Mins

Mapimpi, unchecked this time, beats Daly in a superb straight aerial contest and the scrum goes South Africa’s way after the ball is unplayable.

A superb South African try as Mapimpi chips ahead down the left. Am collects and immediately flicked the pass back to his wing to dot down.

There was a TMO check and South Africa should count themselves lucky. Am was certainly behind Mapimpi as he chipped ahead, but the initial pass from Malcolm Marx to Mapimpi looked six or seven inches forward.

‘Nothing clear and obvious’ advises the TMO and so Pollard takes the tee to add the conversion.

England 12 South Africa 25

If there is any way back for England now, it’s a long and unlikely path.

Here’s the try that appears to have swung the final to Rassie’s underdog South African’s.

Magnificent skill from Lukhanyo Am to immediately return the ball to Makazole Mapimpi.

75Mins

Well now, this has turned into a trouncing.

Cheslin Kolbe steps around Owen Farrell and scorches his way to the try-line.

Pollard smashes over the conversion to give the ‘Boks a massive 20-point lead in the World Cup final. Who on earth predicted this?

England 12 South Africa 32

79Mins

The bench is celebrating with Siya Kolisi and, man, can they afford to. The ‘Boks are still attacking in the England 22 and the clock is nearly dead.

The masterclass against the All Blacks feels an awfully long time ago.

80Mins

An incredible performance from South Africa. They take a third World Cup title and become the first side to lift the Webb Ellis despite losing a match in the tournament.

Rassie Erasmus caused much consternation when he left Munster, but if this was his grand plan then who could begrudge him.

He is flanked in that coaching box by Felix Jones and Jacques Nienaber, who both played such a key role in Munster during Erasmus’ brief time in Ireland.

Owen Farrell shows a rare trace of emotion in his post-match interview. He’s normally ice cold and focused, but as he thanked the fans there was a palpable lump in his throat.

It’s been an emotional ride for all of us this past six weeks, Owen.

That’s all for the liveblogs at this World Cup, but we’ll have lots more reaction from Japan and closer to home after this match and ahead of the resumption of normal service in the provincial game.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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