Tuesday, August 24, 2010

South Africa 22-29 New Zealand

New Zealand sealed the 2010 Tri-Nations title in dramatic fashion after two very late tries set up an enthralling win over South Africa in Johannesburg. The hosts had led 22-17 up until the 78th minute when All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw scored a controversial try in the corner to level the scores. And Israel Dagg secured the title when he latched on to Ma'a Nonu's pass. The loss was a bitter blow for South Africa captain John Smit on his 100th Test appearance at the FNB Stadium.

However, the victory was tinged with controversy with South Africa's coaching staff incensed a forward pass had not been spotted in the build-up to McCaw's try. The flanker needed television match official Shaun Veldsman to confirm the try was legitimate after he appeared to ground the ball at the same time as his foot was dragged into touch by winger Bryan Habana. The try levelled the scores at 22-22, although Carter missed the subsequent conversion from the far touchline which would have given New Zealand a two-point lead.

A draw would have given the All Blacks the one point required to win their seventh Tri-Nations title in nine years. But substitute Dagg also ensured New Zealand extended their winning run to 14 successive matches when he outsprinted full-back Gio Aplon after centre Nonu carved through the beleaguered Springbok defence. And Carter, who missed five of his nine attempts at goal at the stadium formerly known as Soccer City, added the conversion in front of the posts before the final whistle. "I'm proud of our boys," said a jubilant McCaw. «We kept believing in what we were doing. We got some pressure on in that second half and perhaps their weary legs gave us a few opportunities that we managed to take.

"I'm happy we won but I feel sorry for John. For a guy like that, he probably deserved better but that's the way rugby goes. It's a cruel game." The defeat extends South Africa's losing run to four matches and keeps the world champions firmly rooted at the bottom of the Tri-Nations table with just one point. Until Dagg's last-minute try, New Zealand had not been in front throughout the whole match as South Africa produced an obdurate defensive display in front of one of the largest crowds ever gathered for a rugby international. "I really thought we had done enough," said Springbok skipper Smit, who capped a century of Tests with defeat. "We worked hard and I really enjoyed the Test but the last minute..."

Fly-half Morne Steyn's boot had given South Africa a 16-14 lead at the half-time interval, kicking three penalties and a conversion following Schalk Burger's muscular try after barging through four All Blacks defenders from close range in the 25th minute. But the visitors responded through the unlikely figure of prop Tony Woodcock stationed on the right wing, running on to second-row Tom Donnelly's intelligent pass. South Africa, who had made seven changes to their starting XV from the side that began the 30-13 defeat by Australia four weeks ago, extended their lead to 22-15 with two second-half penalties from Steyn, both from long range.

And off-sorts Carter reduced the gap to five points with a penalty but, with the clocking ticking towards the final five minutes, New Zealand attempted to lift the tempo with a series of substitutions. And McCaw's late try silenced what had been a raucous partisan crowd at the brand new venue, built for the 2010 World Cup, while Dagg's last-minute score capped off a resilient display by the All Blacks.


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