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All Blacks reign at Ellis Park

Sat, 05 Oct 2013 17:03
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The Boks scored the four tries that they needed, but New Zealand scored five of their own

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The All Blacks secured the Rugby Championship title with a 38-27 victory in a pulsating clash with the Springboks at Ellis Park.

The home side scored the four tries that they needed, but New Zealand scored five of their own in an intense battle which thrilled the packed crowd. It was their first victory at Ellis Park since 1997 and saw them end the competition unbeaten to retian their title.

There is not another pair of teams in the world of rugby in 2013 that could have produced a game of such splendour. That should make you so proud of what happened at Ellis Park on Johannesburg on 5 October 2013. That glow of gratitude should surpass all the disappointments you may feel because your side did not win.

There was a Springbok manager in New Zealand in 1965 whose team lost the series. Kobus Louw would say over and over again: "Today, rugby was the winner." On Saturday evening at Ellis Park, rugby was the winner. It was wonderful game with little to mar our joy.

The weather was fine, the stadium well-organised and the crowd cheerful, the players behaving like gentlemanly sportsmen at top of what they do and how they do it. And the excellent match officials contributed to joy of the occasion - no catastrophic blunders, no tinpot office bearers going about seeking whom they may chastise, There were no nursery school playground squabbles. It was a decent game, played by decent people. And the better team won. Both sides strove mightily to win and one did so. But there was also a little victory for sportsmanship.

Both teams had players of exceptional ability but in the end the victory went to the team that performed the ordinary things exceptionally well. The All Blacks were better than the Springboks at receiving kickoff for example. The Springboks scrummed better for nearly an hour but the All Blacks were better in the lineouts. The All Blacks kicked more but also more effectively but it may just be in making their tackles that their superiority counted most. The Springboks scored four tries and had opportunities and missed out on a couple more. New Zealand scored five tries but did not miss out on opportunities the way the Springboks did . It may well be that they are more mature. The Springboks conceded four penalties to All Blacks' eight. New Zealand 'won' the sanctionary card count 2-0.

The match started with its ceremonies -God Defend New Zealand and, with much gusto, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. The All Blacks did their Kapa O panga haka as the crowd strove to drown them out with repetitions of Olé.

New Zealand kicked off and won the kick-off back to set up several phases. The Springboks attacked and a Willie le Roux chipped and won a five-metre scrum. From the scrum the Springboks battered at the line with Jean de Villiers and Duane Vermeulen close. The referee played advantage as Charlie Faumuina went offside and Fourie du Preez, wastefully it seemed, kicked the ball dead. Morné Steyn goaled the penalty. 3-0 after 10 minutes.

New Zealand kicked off again and again won the ball back, this time as Juandré Kruger knocked on. Again the All Blacks played through phases till Kieran Read got away from Willem Alberts and passed a clever, falling pass to Ben Smith who knifed past Morné Steyn and Bryan Habana to score. 7-3 to the All Blacks after 12 minutes.

From a scrum, the Springboks attacked. Vermeulen burst inside Ma'a Nonu and away from Charlie Faumuina' despairing dive. Challenged he gave to Bryan Habana who outwitted Conrad Smith in in-goal and scored behind the posts. 10-7 to the Springboks after 18 minutes.

There was the whiff of a big hiding, when Francois Louw passed behind Read's back to Habana. The speedster hunched his shoulders and raced away. Confronted by Ben Smith he chipped, gathered and scored. 15-7 after 20 minutes.

Again New Zealand won the kick-off and again they attacked. In making a mark Habana tore a hamstring and was helped off, to be placed by Jan Serfontein - an inside centre who played left wing. New Zealand attacked in phases till Aaron Smith was out near the line. But they got their try as Brodie Retallick surged over. 15-14 after 25 minutes.

Twice the Springboks opted for five-metre line-outs from penalties and twice the All Blacks repelled their maul.

Siya Kolisi replaced Willem Alberts who was taken off on a stretcher.

The half-time siren sounded as the All Blacks won a line-out on the Springboks 22. They went through increasingly urgent phases till Liam Messam cut back to his right, beating three opponents as he did so and scoring a try. 21-15, which was the half-time score - less than the Springboks deserved until you remembered missed tackles.

After Kolisi had burst through Hore on a promising run, Dane Coles replaced the tough, old farmer.

The Springboks got a maul to work and marched stirringly downfield. Messam cheated to stop it and was sent to the sin bin. Du Preez tapped and passed a long pass to Le Roux who was strong enough to force his way over. 22-21 after 47 minutes.,

At this stage Beauden Barrett replaced Cruden.

There was a wonderful passage of play just after this. First massive Eben Etzebeth raced down the left touchline. He was stopped and Conrad Smith broke out. Kirchner started a counter. JJ Engelbrecht dummied and broke down the right. He passed to Le Roux who was on his onside with nobody in front of him. He seemed to think his destination was inevitable and almost sauntered. Julian Savea and Read felled him and the next thing the All Blacks were on the attack. Savea gave Read a short pass as Le Roux cam out of his defensive line. Read beat Kirchner but Steenkamp and Steyn laid him low. The All Blacks went right and at the posts Siya Kolisi saved a certain try with a heavy tackle on Nonu. But Kruger had been offside and Barrett put the All Blacks back in the lead at 24-22 after 55 minutes.

It was a thrill a minute.

South Africa got on the attack and New Zealand threw into a line-out five metres from their goal line. They had one of these few at the front line-outs with an empty tail. Coles threw over the front and up leapt Etzebeth, lurking at the tail, to steal the ball. The Springboks went right where, with little room to manoeuvre or build up speed, Jean de Villiers beat Barrett, Nonu and Ben Smith to score. 27-24 after 58 minutes and the Springboks had their desired bonus point.

This was not the status quo for long. From the kick-off Kirchner kicked a 'taken back' ball out on the full and the All Blacks had a line-out inside the Springbok 22 The ball went to Barrett and he, deceptively speedy, raced past Steyn. Engelbrecht and Kirchner to score at the posts. This ensured the All Blacks would have the bonus point they needed to assure them of winning the Championship. 31-27.

At this stage one of the officials responsible for the coming and going of players during a match, came to tell the referee that the All Black No.16 was not Keven Mealamu as stated on the team list but Dane Coles who by then had been on their field for about 20 minutes. The All Black manager explained that this was a typo. Jean de Villiers arrived and with a smile suggested that they just play on, thus saving embarrassment.

Soon after this the assistant referee flagged Ben Franks for punching Coenie Oosthuizen. The referee sent Franks to the sin bin, an act not at all in keeping with the spirit of the match. The 14-man All Blacks attacked down the left and Read sent Savea racing away with a small pass. Savea returned the favour but with a long pass infield to Read who had an easy jog for a try at the posts.

There was a lively end to the match (Where did they get the energy from?) De Villiers went on a long run but lost the ball forward in a tackle. New Zealand attacked unto Le Roux intercepted a pass from Steven Luatua to Dagg on the Springbok 10-metre line. Le Roux seemed certain to score but Barrett raced with speed and determination and ankletapped Le Roux, just knocking a foot into touch as the wing dived for the line.

What a wonderful match!

Afterwards when they present the Championship trophy to Richie McCaw there was nobody, however disappointed, who begrudged them the trophy.

Man of the Match: Kieran Read with all his skills and talents - from hefty tackle to delicate pass - who made a massive contribution to his side's victory.

Moment of the Match: It seems unfair to choose from nine splendid tries and perhaps the best would be to choose that moment of sportsmanship when Jean de Villiers said: "Let him stay."

Villain of the Match: Ben Franks's punch was so out of place.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries:
Habana 2, Le Roux, De Villiers
Cons: Steyn 2
Pen: Steyn

For New Zealand:
Tries:
Ben Smith, Messam 2, Barrett, Read
Cons: Cruden 3, Barrett 2
Pen: Barrett

Yellow card: Liam Messam (46 mins, repeated infringements) Ben Franks (62 mins, foul play)

Teams:

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrechtn, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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