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Smith erases black mark in style

Date

Marc Hinton

New Zealand 21 South Africa 11

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New Zealand edge out Springboks

New Zealand maintained their perfect start to The Rugby Championship with a 21-11 victory over South Africa on Saturday

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FROM the doghouse to the penthouse, Aaron Smith ended his Test match week significantly better than the way he started it.

MATCH STATS

Chastised and penalised earlier in the week after breaking a curfew following the scrappy victory over Argentina in Wellington, the All Blacks halfback responded in the best manner possible.

Prodigal son ... replacement halfback Aaron Smith scores the match-sealing try after being dumped from the starting line-up for ill-discipline.

Prodigal son ... replacement halfback Aaron Smith scores the match-sealing try after being dumped from the starting line-up for ill-discipline. Photo: AFP

He came off the bench, to which he had been demoted following his Wellington indiscretions, and the 23-year-old home-town Highlander imprinted himself all over another combative, competitive Test match against the old enemy from South Africa. But for Smith's magical try midway through the second half, the New Zealanders might have struggled to secure the victory they did, two tries to one, to all but secure the world champions the inaugural Rugby Championship title.

The halfback brilliantly sized up the situation from a ruck 20-odd metres out, spotted big Flip van der Merwe in front of him, slipped around him with ease and had the skill and the gas to leave the cover defence for dead.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Smith's all-round performance was the response he expected.

South Africa's Francois Steyn (top) is tackled by New Zealand All Blacks Aaron Cruden. Click for more photos

All Blacks edge Springboks

New Zealand beat South Africa after scoring two tries to one, but the South Africans rue an off night with the boot. Photo: Marty Melville

"He really had only one response he could deliver to be satisfied, and that was to come out and play well, and he certainly did that," Hansen said. "He scored a great try and he came out and made a difference."

Smith's try took an 8-8 deadlock to 15-8 and when Boks replacement prop Dean Greyling was sin-binned soon after for a cheap shot on Richie McCaw at a ruck, it was always going to be a long haul back for the Boks. They briefly threatened when a Johan Goosen penalty got them back to within four, but two Aaron Cruden penalties secured a victory for the All Blacks that was every bit as hard-earned as it looked.

Skipper McCaw, who ended the match hobbling badly, was huge for the New Zealanders, demonstrating all his qualities in his 110th Test. Luke Romano had another impressive outing in the black jersey up front, while Israel Dagg – the other try-scorer on the night – Cory Jane and Smith off the bench all showed their class when clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.

The Springboks would have been kicking themselves after missing a gilt-edged try chance in the fifth minute when a Francois Hougaard toe-through should have served up a try wide on the right to Habana. When ball was shifted right only a shocking final pass behind the winger denied the visitors a certain five-pointer.

That ended up being the story of the first 40 minutes for the South Africans, who should have taken a lead into the sheds, but instead trailed 5-3 after Morne Steyn missed three of his four shots at goal, and Frans Steyn was astray with two more from long range.

The All Blacks did score the only try of the half just shy of the 20-minute mark courtesy of a fabulous counter-attack off a deep Boks kick. Dagg was the scorer, after featuring four times in the movement, though two quite brilliant offloads by Sam Whitelock and then Kieran Read created the opportunity for the fullback to race clear from 30 metres out.

But, frustratingly, that was the only clear opportunity carved by the New Zealanders over a half where they played a clear second fiddle to the South Africans.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said his side had the right plan but did not have the execution.

"We put them under a lot of pressure in the first half, especially when it was still 5-3, but you have to convert that pressure into points," he said.

"That's the difference between the sides."

NEW ZEALAND 21 (Israel Dagg, Aaron Smith tries Aaron Cruden con 3 pens) bt SOUTH AFRICA 11 (Bryan Habana try Johan Goosen, Morne Steyn pens) at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Referee: George Clancy.

 

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Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
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SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
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AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
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IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
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WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
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NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
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SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
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ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
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SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
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New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
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USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
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