New Zealand displayed their ruthless streak as they ambushed South Africa with some potent counterattacking to win their final Rugby Championship match 32-16 on Saturday.
The Springboks started off promisingly and led 16-12 at the break, but the All Blacks stepped up a gear in the second half to score 20 unanswered points for their 16th successive win, completing an unbeaten run through the tournament.
Lock Sam Whitelock, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and centers Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith scored tries, with flyhalf Dan Carter adding three conversions, a penalty and a drop goal.
South Africa scored a 13th-minute try by wing Bryan Habana, converted by flyhalf Johan Goosen, who also kicked a penalty before limping off with a heel injury.
His replacement, Elton Jantjies, also kicked two penalties just before halftime to give the Springboks the lead at the break, but this was short-lived.
The All Blacks struggled initially to handle the Springboks up front, especially in the set pieces, and the home side successfully pinned the visitors in their own territory for long periods.
Jean de Villiers and wing Habana combined brilliantly to fashion a try off a lineout move, flank Willem Alberts having provided momentum as he crashed the ball up.
The experienced duo combined well again midway through the first half, winning a penalty for the Springboks, which Johan Goosen kicked to give the hosts a 10-0 lead.
However, South Africa then provided the All Blacks with broken-field ball, center Jaco Taute failing to find touch from a clearing kick, and they immediately pounced.
Wing Hosea Gear, chosen for this match ahead of Julian Savea who scored two tries last weekend, made the half-break, found eighthman Kieran Read in support and he sent Whitelock storming down the right touchline and reaching over for the try.
New Zealand struck again six minutes before halftime as Habana broke the defensive line for the slim chance of an intercept, allowing Carter to break free, Gear again playing a prominent role and setting up Aaron Smith for an easy run-in.
The All Blacks’ narrow 12-10 lead was overhauled by Jantjies’ two penalties just before the break, but the World Cup holders produced some marvelous rugby in the second half.
New Zealand won possession from the kickoff, fullback Israel Dagg showing dazzling skills as he broke through the line and then found Read with an overhead pass. Nonu was on his inside for the simplest of tries.
Carter’s angled conversion put the visitors 19-16 ahead and the Springboks had a chance of leveling the scores in the 49th minute, but Jantjies hit the post with a penalty.
The All Blacks continued to capitalize on the mistakes of the Springboks and Conrad Smith took advantage of gaping holes in their backline to score in the 53rd minute.
The All Blacks were cruising and the masterful Carter had the final say with a penalty in the 72nd minute that made the final score 32-16.
AUSTRALIA 25, PUMAS 19
Reuters, ROSARIO, Argentina
Australia’s beefed-up forward pack outmuscled Argentina to secure a 25-19 victory in Rosario on Saturday and finish the inaugural Rugby Championship second to New Zealand.
Winger Digby Ioane scored a late try for the Wallabies, whose embattled coach Robbie Deans was vindicated for selecting a heavy set of forwards to take on Argentina’s might up front following a string of injuries in the leadup.
Fullback Michael Harris kicked 20 points, including five first-half penalties to put Australia 15-9 ahead at halftime as the Wallabies made the fewer handling mistakes with a slippery ball in damp conditions.
Australia’s third victory in the elite southern hemisphere tournament saw them finish equal with South Africa on points, but secured the runner-up position by virtue of having won more games than the Springboks.
The world champion All Blacks crushed South Africa earlier on Saturday for a clean sweep of six wins, while Argentina had to settle for bottom place, but enjoyed an encouraging debut with a draw and five mostly competitive defeats.
“The [Argentina] team really gave their all. There were some mistakes, especially in the first half, which finally cost us the match,” Pumas winger Gonzalo Camacho said.
“We gave away a lot of penalties, which was something we had set out to avoid, and the Australians got most of their points that way,” he told reporters.
Pumas prop Rodrigo Roncero, a veteran of three World Cups, came off to a standing ovation four minutes from the end in a fitting farewell in his 55th and last Test.
“He’s a master, there are no words to describe him,” Camacho said.