The Maro Itoje advice Marcus Smith ignored before decisive kick
England hero Marcus Smith has revealed he neglected to follow the advice given to him by Maro Itoje prior to kicking the match-winning 80th-minute penalty versus the Springboks on Saturday. Rather than his three-pointer signalling the end of the epic Autumn Nations Series clash with the world champions, referee Andrew Brace decided there was still time remaining to allow the South Africans to kick off.
The clock had been stopped at 78:52 for a TMO review before Smith was allowed to proceed with his kick to put England 27-26 ahead. However, rather than take the full amount of allotted time, the clock had only advanced to 79:37 by the time the ball passed through the uprights.
That meant play could continue and it was only after the restart led to Freddie Steward getting taken out in the air for a penalty to England that was eventually confirmed by another TMO review that Smith had the opportunity to end the match by booting the ball into the crowd.
Reflecting on the dramatic conclusion to what was just the 22-year-old’s fifth Test cap with England, Smith said: “It’s probably the highest pressure moment I have ever been in, with the delay of it as well.
“The referee was checking things, so I had a lot of time to think about it, but Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry and the leaders in the team put their arms around me and said, ‘We believe in you’. Maro (Itoje) said, ‘Take the whole minute’ and I didn’t do that. Sorry, Maro! I was just collecting my thoughts.
"You sensed it would be epic for the moment you stepped out at Twickenham rail station…"
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“It was one of those kicks that… I used my breathing techniques which calmed me down and I focused on what I could control. I was very grateful that I sent that over. To have those sort of leaders around me helps me massively through the gate and I appreciate that help big time.”
Although still only a rookie at Test level, Smith was in South Africa as part of the Lions squad and he watched on from the stands in the 2-1 series defeat against the Springboks in Cape Town. That experience added context to the value of England resiliently finding a way to defeat the world champions three months later.
“This game was massively special. We know how well South Africa have done this year and we got massively excited about it… We had to have the courage to keep playing because not many teams beat South Africa if you play them at their game.”
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