Early morning disappointment for England rugby fans

London (AFP) –


Pumped up with pints and positive vibes at kick-off, England rugby fans watching in London ended the morning as miserable as the slate grey skies outside after seeing their team thumped by South Africa.

Hope were high after last week's demolition of the mighty All Blacks as fans arrived at the Flying Horse pub in the City of London for the kick-off in Japan which fell at 9:00 am British time.

"England are going to win, 100 percent," England fan Tom Jeffrey, 25, told AFP.

"Last week, we were a bit nervous but we were insane. I reckon 22-15 to England."

His friend Andrew Lavrentiev, 24, was also hopeful, saying "it's going to be a tight game, there's going to be one try in it but I wouldn't guess the score."

The pub was an island of emotion amid the sleepy streets of London's financial district, emptied of its workers.

Across the city, hundreds of fans crowded into a venue featuring bars and restaurants next to Wembley Stadium were also about to suffer crushing disappointment.

Back in the pub, as temperatures rose and the steamed-up windows obscured any view of the outside world, the first cheer of the morning came with the singing of the national anthems.

One brave South African fan, Wayne Ramsay, 33, set up camp in front of the big screen, with most in the pub expecting him to suffer a long morning.

But the mood turned nervous within moments of the kickoff, with South Africa nailing a penalty while England had key player Kyle Sinckler taken off with injury as they came under a ferocious onslaught from the Springboks.

Ramsay's frequent shouts of "penalty" across the increasingly subdued pub each heralded another body blow for England fans, as Handre Pollard's boot fired South Africa into 12-6 half-time lead.

"I'm very happy, I think we've dominated, at scrum time we are all over England," Ramsay told AFP at half-time, expressing his surprise at how the game had gone.

"You see what you (England) done to New Zealand last weekend, best team in the world, absolutely ran them riot. So why would I have been optimistic? We beat Wales by the skin of our teeth.

"I think it's going to be a three- or five-point ball game," he predicted.

Despite the odd England burst in the second half, a resigned air began to fall over the punters, which was confirmed when Makazole Mapimpi scored the game's first try in the 66th minute, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Some fans left the pub early, with one saying "I can't watch this", while those that remained applauded the South African team as the final whistle blew with the Springboks running out 32-12 winners.

"They deserved to win, completely outplayed us, said Jay, 33. "I was optimistic but their game plan was brilliant."

In Wembley, fans held their heads in their hands.

They had just one consolation -- the early kick off allowed for plenty of time to drown their sorrows.