All Blacks back on top
All Blacks back on topSHARE
New Zealand moved to the top of the Rugby Championship standings by beating South Africa 29-15 in controversial circumstances on Saturday.
In a game that saw five cards – four yellow and two of the yellow cards, to Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, becoming a red – the All Blacks outscored the Springboks by four tries to two.
However, it is the performance of the match officials that will be debated in the days and weeks to come.
What a disappointing second half to a match that promised so much. It was not the rain's fault and quite possibly it was not the players' fault but 14 versuss 15 does not make a match, not when the two top teams are playing.
The Springboks played with 14 men for 49 minutes.
Then in the last few minutes of the match the All Blacks were down to 13 men.
It is hard to justify the referee's first yellow card for Bismark du Plessis. He was shown a yellow card for a tackle without using his arms. Repeated replays show that he had an arm wrapped around Dan Carter. The referee also said that the tackle was high. It was well below the shoulders – certainly not high.
It was a mistake by the referee and the sad part of it all was that it was a mistake that he need not have made. He could have had replays, watched the big screen and asked the advice of the TMO.
He did not do that!
While Du Plessis was off the All Blacks took the score from 7-3 to 14-3.
Two minutes into the second half Bismarck du Plessis was shown another yellow card, this time for charging ahead into Liam Messam with his forearm to lead him. Two yellows equal a red and off he went.
The penalty count is also interesting. The All Blacks were penalised 15 times to the Springboks' eight. Nine of those penalties against the All Blacks were for tackle infringements.
But let's leave it.
The Springbok scrummaging was better than that of the All Blacks, but that evened out somewhat when the Springboks were down to seven forwards.
The statistics on the All Blacks' own ball are not great: nine scrums, three collapses, four penalties, three free kicks and four resets.
The All Blacks were clever at the line-outs and their kicking was better and put greater pressure on the Springboks. The worst aspect of Springbok play was their tackling, particularly evident in Brodie Retallick's try.
The All Blacks led the turnovers after Bismarck du Plessis was off for he is a tackle thief par excellence.
Two Springbok mistakes led to the All Blacks first try. It started with a kicking duel which the Springboks were winning till Bryan Habana kicked a horrible, short kick infield. Ma'a Nonu kicked it down towards the empty space behind Willie le Roux. Le Roux got back to the ball but instead or turning or playing the ball infield to Ruan Pienaar he ran it into touch for a five-metre line-out to the All Blacks.
They cleverly won the ball with a quick, low throw to the front. Owen Franks charged and then Kieran Read picked up and forced his way over for a try far out. Carter goaled. 7-0 after four minutes.
At this stage, rain or no rain, the match was fast and intense, promising the great encounter that was expected.
Retallick was penalised for an air tackle on Eben Etzebeth and Morné Steyn goaled. 7-3 after nine minutes.
At 15 minutes, Bismarck du Plessis was yellowcarded for the first time. Carter had to leave the field, clutching a shoulder and Beauden Barrett took his place and had a splendid match. In midfield Barrett broke brilliantly past Pienaar and Jannie du Plessis. He then beat Kirchner but was tackled. The All Blacks got quick if scruffy ball and Conrad Smith broke past Jannie du Plessis before giving to Retallick on his left and the big lock surged over under the posts. 14-3 after 23 minutes.
The Springboks turned a penalty into a maul and drove powerfully at the All Blacks' line where Bismarck du Plessis dropped down for the try. Steyn converted from far out. 14-10 after 32 minutes.
Almost immediately Jannie du Plessis was penalised for obstruction when the Springboks won a tackle/ruck. Barrett goaled. 17-10, the half-time score though the Springboks came close to scoring through Willem Alberts and Steyn.
At half-time Charles Piutau replaced Israel Dagg who had taken a knock to his thigh and Juandré Kruger replaced Flip van der Merwe.
Two minutes into the half Bismarck du Plessis was yellow carded for a second time, this time for his charge on Liam Messam.
Again it was a Nonu kick that produced a try. He grubbered to his left. On his line and under pressure Le Roux passed to Zane Kirchner who was tackled by Dane Coles, Julian Savea and Nonu, which resulted in a five-metre scrum. From the scrum the All Blacks bashed and Read scored under the posts. 24-10 after 46 minutes.
The rest of the half lacked lustre, though each side scored a try.
The All Blacks won a turnover through Read and attacked. They bashed and Sam Cane, bleeding, scored the bonus-point try, 29-10 after 68 minutes.
The Springboks attacked. Read was sent to the sin bin and then Nonu went, too, for a late, armless, high tackle on Jean de Villiers.
Twice the Springboks tapped penalties and bashed till Morné Steyn kicked a high diagonal to his left. Just in from touch Kirchner leapt and knocked the ball back inside to Patrick Lambie who scored his first Test try. 29-15 which was the final score.
Man of the Match: Ben Smith who ran with speed and deception, tackled, chased and fielded kicks.
Moment of the Match: The red card for Bismarck du Plessis which eviscerated the match.
Villain of the Match: We may as well say it because that is how it is going to be seen – the referee for that first yellow card which was entirely his own decision.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Read 2, Retallick, Cane
Cons: Carter, Barrett 2
For South Africa:
Tries: B du Plessis, Lambie
Yellow cards: Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa, 16 and 42 – first was foul ply, no arms and high tackle and the second foul play, an elbow into the neck); Kieran Read (New Zealand, 71 – foul play, taking out the jumper in the air), Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand, 74 – foul play, late charge)
Red card: Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa, 42 – two yellow cards)
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 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 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)