All Blacks edge S Africa to reach final

HISTORY IN THE MAKING?:New Zealand’s semi-final victory puts them one win away from becoming the first team to lift back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles

Reuters, LONDON

Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 19

New Zealand ground their way into the Rugby World Cup final for a record fourth time when they proved too strong, too dangerous and, ultimately, too streetwise for South Africa in a predictably tense 20-18 victory on Saturday.

Tries by Jerome Kaino and Beauden Barrett early in each half were a fair representation of the All Blacks’ superior commitment to attack and they deservedly advanced to the final at Twickenham.

“We did it the hard way today. It was always going to be that way, but we have got a crack at it next week,” said New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who now has the chance to become the first man to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup twice.

“We have been saying they would bring everything. There were no surprises and we had to dig deep to get the result,” he added.

South Africa led 12-7 at half-time through the goal-kicking of Handre Pollard, but spent most of the half defending.

Though they offered precious little in attack all match and kicked badly out of hand, the Springboks somehow clawed their way back to within two points with more penalties to set up a nail-biting last 10 minutes.

However, New Zealand showed their vast experience to run down the clock and give themselves a chance to become the first nation to retain the title.

“We believed we were good enough to beat them, but we just were not,” South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said. “We wanted to make our country proud and we did not.”

The majority of the first half was played in the South Africa half, but the Springboks emerged from it five points ahead thanks to magnificent defense and the deadly boot of Pollard.

New Zealand got the only try of the half after seven minutes when McCaw sent Kaino over in the corner and though Dan Carter converted, he struck the post with a later penalty.

There were no such problems for Pollard, whose beautifully struck kicks bisected the posts four times after the All Blacks were continually penalized.

However, South Africa’s kicking from hand got worse, inviting attack after attack, and as they lost three successive lineouts, the pressure ramped up, despite the All Blacks playing the first nine minutes of the second half with 14 men after Kaino was sin-binned.

Carter slotted a drop-goal, then the black wave went right and left, creating space to send replacement wing Barrett over for a converted try and a 17-12 lead.

A penalty apiece made it 20-15 going into the final 20 minutes and Pat Lambie, on for the injured Pollard, landed a difficult 40m kick to reduce the lead to two points.

As the rain lashed down and handling became difficult, the two giants of the sport smashed away at each other, desperate to find a gap or force a penalty.

However, after losing their opening game to Japan, South Africa have been playing knockout rugby for five weeks and it appeared to catch up with them.

They briefly threatened when a rolling maul took them into penalty range, but New Zealand, lessons learned, made sure they stayed on the right side of the ref.

The holders then took control and, appropriately, ended the game deep in the South Africa half as they chalked up their 11th, and most important, victory in their last 13 meetings with their greatest rivals.