New Zealand beats South Africa to stay unbeaten

The Canadian Press
9/14/2013 10:37:40 AM
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Stand-in captain Kieran Read scored two tries as New Zealand earned a grueling 29-15 Rugby Championship win Saturday over a South African team reduced to 14 men by the sending off of hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

Du Plessis received a yellow card in the 16th minute when, from an offside position, he made a jarring high tackle on flyhalf Dan Carter which forced the world-record points scorer from the field with a dislocated shoulder.

The 29-year-old hooker, in his 51 test, was then sent from the field in the 42nd minute when he received a second yellow card for elbowing flanker Liam Messam in the throat.

New Zealand exploited his absence, scoring four tries to two to remain unbeaten after four rounds of the four-nation tournament.

"It's always hard when you play New Zealand. I guess when you play 50 minutes with 14 men it doesn't make it any easier," Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said.

"What a way to disappoint yourself, dishing up a performance like that. But I think we've seen tonight how far we are still behind the All Blacks. Credit must go to them, the way that they played. They're a fantastic team and we can learn a lot from them.

"It's definitely not fatigue that had the best of us today. Defensively we were very poor, we didn't make our tackles and that's something we pride ourselves on."

New Zealand also ended the match short-handed, reduced to 13 men after French referee Romain Poite, bizarrely officious, showed yellow cards to Read, for a professional foul, and to centre Ma'a Nonu, for a late shoulder charge on Springboks captain Jean de Villiers.

New Zealand scored a try to lock Brodie Retallick during Du Plessis' first absence to take control of a brutally physical match.

Du Plessis returned from the sin-bin to score a try of his own but his second and final dismissal left New Zealand with a numerical advantage which they exploited with Read's second try and another to flanker Sam Cane.

The win left New Zealand and in a strong position to carry off the Championship crown, though they will have to beat South Africa again at Johannesburg.

They ended South Africa's nine match winning streak - stretching back to the last meeting between the teams in South Africa - and extended an unbeaten record at Eden Park which began in 1994.

New Zealand enhanced its standing as the No. 1 team in world rugby with its 383rd test match victory which broke France's world record of 382 wins in tests. The All Blacks achieved the mark in 505 tests whereas France needed 695 matches to reach 382 wins.

The match was not one which enhanced South Africa's reputation. They arrived in New Zealand in a high state of confidence after their ninth-straight test win, a 38-12 dismantling of Australia which gave them their first-ever test match victory in Brisbane.

They expressed that strong sense of confidence in the lead up to the match, suggesting their four-year losing streak in New Zealand and 76-year drought at Eden Park were about to end. The Springboks talked about a new era in their own game in which they would build a new attacking style on the solid framework built by a dominating forward pack.

But Saturday's match - from the fourth minute when Read scored his first try - showed the Springboks' confidence was slightly misplaced. They had no ability to match the pace or scope of the All Blacks game and their first try, through Du Plessis in the 31st minute, came from a traditional rolling maul.

South Africa competed physically, often ferociously, through the first half and were still in the match, with the help of Du Plessis' try, when they trailed 17-10 at halftime.

But, in keeping with the tone of recent matches between the teams, they faded as the second half progressed and as the pace of the All Blacks' game exacerbated the physical toll of a match of giant collisions.

The Springboks were not even dominant in the physical contest. They won an inconsequential victory when they displaced the first All Blacks' scrum but from that point on New Zealand asserted itself and became better than South Africa in most aspects of the match.

Read, who took over the captaincy from the injured Richie McCaw, and Sam Cane, who wore McCaw's No. 7 jersey in his 10th test, produced courageous performances for New Zealand. Lock Retallick and flanker Messam were also outstanding as was Beauden Barrett, who took over at flyhalf from Carter.

"It's very humbling. Everyone in the team put their body on the line and gave their all and we came out on top," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "Someone like Sam Cane who I thought was outstanding tonight. He had some doubters around the country but I think he showed he's good enough to be here.

"But he was ably supported by everybody ... all 23 played well. One of the big pluses for the All Blacks is that when we're playing well our tight five are all ball-carriers and passers and the athleticism of those guys, which goes with their core roles and their physicality, gives us an advantage."

Barrett created the try of the match in the 21st minute, slicing open the Springboks' defence on a long, solo run which ended in a try to Retallick - the first of his test career.

Read showed his immense power to twice breach the South African defence on lone raids from close to the line. On the first occasion, after a skewed kick by winger Bryan Habana, New Zealand forced an attacking lineout, went short and Read drove over on the openside.

On the second occasion, in the 48th minute and after a long accumulation of phases, he crashed over under the posts to give New Zealand a decisive 24-10 lead.

Cane, who repeatedly visited the blood bin and ended the match smeared in blood, scored in the 67th minute from another long buildup by the All Blacks forwards.

South Africa hit back when New Zealand was down to 13 men with a try to replacement Patrick Lambie but missed an important bonus point.

New Zealand celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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