All Blacks prevail in the end with 27-20 win

Rugby/SANZ. (All pictures AFP)

Rugby/SANZ. (All pictures AFP)

The Boks led for the major part of the match and, as happened last week against Australia, they were again unable to prevent the opposition from staging a grandstand finish with a come-from-behind victory.

The All Blacks showed why they are the No 1 ranked side in the world as they responded each time they suffered a scoreboard setback and were rewarded with the Freedom Cup at the post-match presentation.

Last week, the Boks conceded the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate to the Wallabies.

At the outset, both sides showed a willingness to run the ball regardless of their field positions and the All Blacks even opted to run early penalties from their own half.

All Blacks flyhalf Lima Sopoaga goaled a 2nd minute penalty after the Boks infringed at a ruck and the early scoreboard advance seemed to give the visitors’ play a lift as much as it heightened the home side’s resolve in the ensuing stages.

The Springboks showed encouraging signs as they ran the ball upfield with fine inter-play by backs and forwards but it was defence that led to their first try after hooker Bismarck du Plessis caught All Black eighthman Kieran Read in possession, midway between the visitors’ 10 m and 22m lines.

The Boks secured a turn-over and worked the ball crossfield to outside centre Jesse Kriel and he cracked on the pace enough to catch the All Blacks’ defence napping before feeding fullback Willie le Roux who ran in to score the opening try in the match (5-3). Flyhalf Handré Pollard goaled the conversion (7-3).

The All Blacks looked set to bounce back when they counter-attacked down the right channels after the Boks spilt a pass. However, the Boks scrambled well in defence to avert danger and Pollard relieved the pressure with a clearance kick from his in-goal area.

Midway through the first half Pollard took the Boks’ lead out to seven points with a 20th minute penalty (10-3).

The Boks seemed to be coasting to a 10-3 halftime lead but the All Blacks again probed the defence down the right and on the stroke of halftime wing Ben Smith was left with an overlap to run for his side’s first try out wide.
Sopoaga goaled splendidly for a 10-all stalemate.

Pollard who left the field briefly just ahead of the halftime break returned for second-half action and five minutes into the half he engineered the Boks’ next try with a deft feed to Kriel who probed the smallest of gaps before streaking in unchallenged for his second international try. Pollard’s conversion was good (17-10).

The All Blacks’ response was both impressive and telling as they exploited a defence lapse in the Boks’ backline and hooker Dane Coles ran strongly down the middle of the field. He rounded off his 35m run by handing off Le Roux to score the All Blacks’ second try, which Sopoaga converted to restore the stalemate at 17-all in the 49th minute.

The Boks’ pressure threatened a further score in the 53rd minute when a forward drive took play up the All Blacks’ tryline but Lood de Jager’s touchdown was adjudged to be just short by the TMO, and it was left to Pollard to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a 56th minute penalty (20-17).

Around the mark the Boks started to wrest the initiative for a sustained spell of play and the All Blacks were at pains to keep the opposition at bay. Once they managed to absorb the pressure, substitute Malakai Fekitoa staged a break-out which threatened briefly until substitute fullback Patrick Lambie stifled it with a timely tackle when he was the last man in the defence for the Boks.

With 10 minutes’ playing left. the All Blacks managed to effectively transfer the pressure and a line-out five metres out provided the platform for their matchwinning try.

They feinted a short throw to the front of the line-out and caught the Boks completely unawares. Instead, the low feed down the middle was grabbed by skipper Richie McCaw who crashed through lone defender scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar for a converted try (24-20).

In the final minute, Sopoaga goaled a second New Zealand penalty to round off the scoring in a match that the Boks would have felt they could have won.

Scorers: South Africa: Tries: Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalty: Pollard (2) Australia: Tries: Ben Smith, Dane Coles, Richie McCaw. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (3). Penalty: Sopoaga (2) - ANA

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