SOUTH AFRICA 27 NEW ZEALAND 38
Beuden Barrett of the All Blacks breaks clear to score the championship- winning try. Photo: Getty Images
JOHANNESBURG: The All Blacks beat South Africa 38-27 in a pulsating nine-try Test at Johannesburg to defend their Rugby Championship title.
In a game where the lead changed hands eight times, the world champions finished stronger and secured victory through late tries to reserve five-eighth Beauden Barrett and man of the match No.8 Kieran Read after trailing 27-24 going into the final quarter.
South Africa winger Willie le Roux crosses for a try. Photo: AFP
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Habana (18min, 20min), le Roux (46min), de Villiers (58min)||Tries||4||Tries||5||Players||Smith (12min), Messam (26min, 41min), Barrett (61min), Read (65min)|
|Players||Steyn 2/4 (50%)||Conversions||2||Conversions||5||Players||Cruden 3/3 (100%), Barrett 2/2 (100%)|
|Players||Steyn 1/1 (100%)||Penalty goals||1||Penalty goals||1||Players||Barrett 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Drop goals||0||Drop goals||0||Players|
The win was the All Blacks' 50th over their great rivals and just their fourth in 12 Tests at Ellis Park.
They had to overcome two stints in the second half when they were one player down, having lost two-try flanker Liam Messam (46th minute) and prop Ben Franks (62nd) to the sin bin.
Handling errors and missed tackles crept into the host's game towards the end, symptomatic of a game played at tremendous pace throughout.
Srpingboks centre JJ Engelbrecht is crunched by Aaron Cruden (R) and Ben Smith. Photo: AFP
South Africa scored four tries but couldn't prevent their second defeat of the year. The first was against the unbeaten All Blacks in Auckland three weeks ago.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was delighted with his team's defiance after the Springboks rocked them several times with their attacking attitude.
"I haven't seen the Springboks play a game like that for a long time," McCaw said.
Man of the match Kieran Read slips a pass away for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
"I'm proud of the way the boys dug in. There were a couple of times when we lost momentum but we kept believing."
Messam's second try on the stroke of halftime was New Zealand's third and handed them a 21-15 lead after the Springboks dominated much of the first half.
Wing Ben Smith crossed in the 11th minute after superb buildup work from Read to put the All Blacks 7-3 ahead.
Richie McCaw holds up the Rugby Championship trophy. Photo: AFP
Smith's eighth try of the series is a season record in the Tri Nations or Rugby Championship, surpassing the record previously shared by compatriot Christian Cullen and Springbok Bryan Habana.
It was Habana who struck back twice for the hosts, the second a spectacular score from a chip and chase to put his team 15-7 ahead. He hobbled out of the Test shortly afterwards with a hamstring injury.
Messam responded with an important double but it was his yellow card in the 46th minute which sparked South Africa's third try, to wing Willie le Roux from a quick tap.
All Blacks triumph in epic clash
The All Blacks pose with the trophy. Photo: AFP
Barrett, who replaced Aaron Cruden soon afterwards, became a pivotal figure.
He landed a penalty but missed a tackle on Jean de Villiers to allow the Springboks captain to score and put his side three points ahead.
Barrett converted the next two All Blacks tries, including his own superb solo effort, before pulling off a desperate tackle on le Roux metres from the tryline after the wing had intercepted the ball and run 60m.
De Villiers lamented the Springboks' poor defending but took some consolation that his team contributed to a fine spectacle.
"The rugby that was dished up was a great advertisement for rugby," he said.
"I think the world sat up tonight and saw what these two teams can do."
A hint of controversy surrounded the Test because of a technical mistake made by All Blacks team manager Darren Shand.
A SANZAR official stopped play when reserve hooker Dane Coles entered the game in the second half because his name wasn't listed on New Zealand's official team list.
Shand explained he had incorrectly written hooker Keven Mealamu's name on the list, telling Welsh referee Nigel Owens it was a genuine error on his behalf.
Coles and de Villiers accepted the explanation and play resumed.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hoped a penalty wouldn't be imposed on his team for the mistake.
"I'd be pretty disappointed if it was. It's a game of rugby, it's not a court session is it?"
NEW ZEALAND 38 (Liam Messam 2, Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Ben Smith tries Aaron Cruden 3, Barrett 2 cons Barrett pen) bt SOUTH AFRICA 27 (Bryan Habana 2, Jean De Villiers, Willie Le Roux tries Morne Steyn 2 cons pen) at Ellis Park. Referee: Nigel Owens.