Salt in the wounds: JP Pietersen scores his second try

PARIS, 14 September - A polished and ruthless South Africa scored 36 unanswered points as IRB Rugby World Cup holders England saw their grip on the trophy loosen.

South Africa were superior in every part of the field, consigning England to a first blank scoreline in their world cup history.

Jason Robinson was one of the few bright sparks for England, catching a series of high balls and providing most of his side's scant penetration. But it wasn't enough to counter the talent and nous of the Springboks, and just 57 minutes had passed when Robinson left the field, injured and bloodied by his efforts.

Behind 20-0 at the break after a masterclass from South Africa scrum half Fourie du Preez, the second half began with more bad news for England as Percy Montgomery added three points from a penalty. Then a Robinson-inspired move saw veteran Ben Kay presented with a golden opportunity to put Paul Sackey through on the left wing, but he tamely kicked straight into grateful South African arms.

Montgomery put his third penalty in the bag, to add to his two conversions, on 55 minutes. Then, England suffered a hammer blow just as a try was in their sights.

Acres of space opened up on the left as England worked the ball out to Robinson. But just as he started off on his run, with Josh Lewsey on the outside, he pulled up and hobbled to a standstill clutching his left hamstring. He was helped off the field, shirt spattered in blood from a wound above his right eye, to be replaced by Mathew Tait.

Without their star player, England fell further behind. Francois Steyn jinked out to the right and offloaded to du Preez, who had a simple task in putting JP Pietersen through for his second try. Montgomery converted to make it 33-0 and keep his 100 per cent conversion and penalty record, kicking a further penalty a minute from time to rack up 18 points from the boot.

Du Preez's intelligent kicking caused England all sorts of problems in the first half after South Africa took a lead through Juan Smith's sixth-minute try and Montgomery's conversion. Then Steyn struck a penalty to make it 10-0.

South Africa had England pegged back for most of the half and an infringement from prop Matt Stevens allowed Montgomery to kick a penalty and make it 13-0 four minutes from the whistle.

Seconds later, Pietersen finished a length-of-field break to leave England already staring defeat in the face.

RNS pr