Tri Nations 2008
All Blacks keep Boks at bay
July 5, 2008
Jerome Kaino slides over to score the winning try for the All Blacks
© Getty Images
Wellington lived up to its windy reputation, providing tough conditions for New Zealand and South Africa. The All Blacks edged the Tri Nations opener 19-8. Jerome Kaino and Bryan Habana scored each side's try but Dan Carter won the battle of the boot with 14 points.
South Africa had their colours lowered for the first time since winning last year's World Cup. In an intense game dominated by huge collisions in the tackle, New Zealand executed with more precision and power to maintain their 10 years of dominance at home against the Springboks.
The result also extended their world record home winning streak to 30 matches. Both teams scored one try but the boot of All Blacks first five-eighth Daniel Carter was key as he landed five from six shots at goal for 14 points. Up 9-8 after a torrid first half, the All Blacks looked more fluent when conditions cleared in the second spell while handling errors continued to plague the Springboks and they rarely threatened to score again.
The game erupted into life in just the sixth minute when All Blacks lock Brad Thorn appeared to lift South African captain John Smit and drop him to the turf after the whistle had blown. Smit felt there was a case for Thorn to be yellow or red-carded, telling Australian referee Stuart Dickinson he had been spear tackled.
Thorn, who went on to make several more crunching tackles, could yet by cited by the match citing commissioner, which would threaten his place for the next test between the two teams at Dunedin next Saturday. His physicality was typical of the New Zealanders, who won most facets of the forward exchanges -- particularly the scrum -- while holding their own at lineout time and winning cleaner tackle ball.
Playing without the injured Richie McCaw the All Blacks barely missed a beat thanks to the work of Rodney So'oialo, his replacement as captain and in the No 7 jersey. The Wellingtonian provided the enormous breakdown presence McCaw has made his hallmark.
So'oialo had excellent support up front from lively lock Ali Williams, who had been in doubt all week due to an ankle injury. Hooker Andrew Hore was a ball of energy while prop Tony Woodcock was at the forefront of a dominant New Zealand scrum.
For South Africa, loose forwards Joe van Niekerk and Schalk Burger, both making their first test starts of the year, were always prominent.
Carter opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a penalty from directly in front, having somehow missed from near the same spot moments earlier.
Opposite number Butch James levelled the scores one minute later following the Thorn-Smit incident although the penalty was actually for a high tackle from flanker Adam Thomson on fullback Conrad Jantjes.
Carter penalties in the 22nd and 29th minute extended the lead to 9-3 before Springboks second five-eighth Jean de Villiers sliced the New Zealand defence open, accelerating past winger Sitiveni Sivivatu on the halfway line to send winger Bryan Habana sliding over in the left-hand corner for a brilliant try.
Carter missed a dropped goal attempt on the stroke of halftime but was the creator of his team's try soon after the break, creating space for Thorn, who sent No 8 Jerome Kaino over for his first test points.
Kaino was wrongly denied a second try in the 58th minute when he was deemed offside after gathering a Carter grubber kick and scoring. Replays showed Dickinson had erred.
The result was all but secured when Carter landed his fourth penalty with nine minutes remaining, the result of constant pressure in Springboks territory. Carter nearly rounded out another dream night with a chargedown try but was just beaten to the loose ball by Habana.
The test was the first to be played under the Experimental Law Variations designed to speed up the game but conditions meant tonight's fixture was never going to be an open affair. Two extra rules, allowing unequal numbers in the lineout and for mauls to be collapsed, had little apparent impact.