In the first game of the day, played in more overcast and cool conditions, France snuck home against the SA U18 'A' team, winning their match by 20-15 as both sets of forwards tried to lay down their dominance.
With the sun gradually winning the battle with the clouds as the afternoon progressed, both teams showed their intent to throw the ball around, with England’s tactic of pushing the tempo clear as daylight from the start.
England outscored their hosts by seven tries to five (which included a penalty try), but their wayward goal-kicking and discipline were costly as the SA U18 kickers, Thurlon Williams (flyhalf) and his replacement Stehan Heymans kicked three penalty goals on a flawless day from the tee.
The visitors got an early try when Jack Bennett (No 8) went over with numbers to his left as they managed to find gaps in the SA defence. But that didn’t deter the SA U18s, and Thomas Dyer (captain and lock) scored their first try 12 minutes later after sustained pressure on attack.
Two minutes later though, England went over again, this time through Louie Trevett (prop), to restore their seven-point lead. However, it only lasted for five minutes before Ethan Bester (hooker) scored a great maul try, with flyhalf Thurlon Williams’ conversion making it 14-14.
England hit back straight away as Will Glister (wing) found space on the right side of the field to score their third try and Sean Kerr (centre) was on target with the conversion to put his side up by 21-14.
SA U18 got a penalty try after another great driving maul, which saw the teams go into the break even on points at 21-21.
The second half started at 100 km/h, with 22 points added in the first 15 minutes. Williams slotted two penalty goals and Dyer, playing a real captain’s innings, scored his second try, while Loic Keasey (replacement hooker) and Henry Pollock (flanker and captain) scored tries for the visitors, who were not scared to run from deep within their own half.
England then added two more tries, by scrumhalf Archie McParland in the 58th minute and replacement prop George Edson two minutes later, but the conversions were off target and they only led by seven points with 10 minutes to go.
The SA U18s finished strong, with a try by fullback Joel Leotlela and a sideline conversion from Heymans levelling the scores with time running out on the clock.
Heymans then landed the match-winning penalty goal with a minute left in the game and the South African supporters could smile after a see-saw 70 minutes of great rugby action in Paarl.
SA Under-18 44 (21) – Tries: Thomas Dyer (2), Ethan Bester, Joel Leotlela, Penalty try. Conversions: Thurlon Williams (3), Stehan Heymans. Penalty goals: Williams (2), Heymans.
England 41 (21) – Tries: Jack Bennett, Louie Trevett, Will Glister, Loic Keasey, Henry Pollock, Archie McParland, George Edson. Conversions: Sean Kerr (3).