Chris Robshaw is relieved to have finally completed his collection of Rugby Championship scalps after England crushed South Africa 37-21 at Twickenham.
A decade of failure against the Springboks spanning 12 Tests, one of them ending in a draw, concluded with a four-try rout on Saturday that was settled the moment George Ford dashed over early in the second half.
Robshaw has been involved in four of those losses, all of them as captain, but was typically industrious as England extended their winning run to 11 games, with ten of them delivered under the guidance of Eddie Jones.
“It’s massive because I’ve played a number of times against South Africa and it’s been a fixture in which you feel you’re quite close, but you’re not actually,” Robshaw said.
“For us to get over that and get a comfortable scoreline is a great feeling. To see our hard work pay off is great for the squad.
“We left some points out there and we’re a little bit disappointed to have conceded that last try but, as this series continues, we’ll get more fluid and show a bit of consistency.
“We always want to improve on last season and when we first met up in the summer, we were very clear that, yes it had been very good and we achieved what we wanted to, but it’s been about kicking on.
“You’re only judged on your next result, so it’s been about making sure that every time you go out there you produce as well as you can and keep things ticking over.”
The victory was given perspective by the limitations of South Africa, who brought their poorest group of players to Twickenham since the 53-3 drubbing in 2002 and, at times in the second half, they were a rabble in defence.
But they started strongly, aided by English indiscipline, until a flawlessly executed move from a line-out that saw Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell act as decoy runners before Marland Yarde and Mike Brown combined to send Jonny May over signalled the beginning of their demise.
It was May’s first international appearance since last autumn’s World Cup and after a ten-month absence with knee ligament damage, the try-scoring return conclusively ended an anxious period in the Gloucester wing’s career.
“It was awesome to be back because I’ve worked so hard over God knows how many months. I always targeted these games so I made it just in the nick of time,” May said.
“All my hard work paid off and I managed to score a try in the corner. For sure there were times when I felt this moment would never come again.
“With a nasty injury like that, when it’s potentially career-ending, you know you have to work extremely hard to get back, but that’s all behind me.
“The last two weeks have been tough. The way we train has been brutal, so I probably ran out of puff a little bit in the second half. I came off early so I’ve got to keep working hard to move onwards and upwards.” Courtney Lawes and Farrell also crossed, Ben Youngs’ skill in duping the giant Pieter-Steph du Toit with two dummies that embarrassed South Africa the key act in two of the four tries. “We played some good stuff and my try came from a move that we practised in the week,” May said.
“It was nice to execute on the day. There were some good tries there. Ben was dangerous around the breakdown and we were clinical.
“This win is huge for us because we haven’t beaten South Africa for ten years and none of us in the squad had won against them.”