Australia v South Africa, Tri-Nations, August 29
Springboks unstoppable in Perth
August 29, 2009
Bryan Habana scored a vital brace of tries for the Springboks
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South Africa continued their domination of the Tri-Nations with a 32-25 win over Australia at Subiaco Oval in Perth.
The Springboks put aside their tag as reluctant tourists to seal a bonus-point in their first Test on foreign soil this season, winger Bryan Habana notching a brace of tries alongside efforts from scrum-half Fourie du Preez and centre Jaque Fourie. Extending their lead at the top of the table to nine points, the Springboks showed a more expressive side in the first-half as the Wallabies struggled in defence and with some poor accuracy.
Fly-half Matt Giteau, their sole kicking option following an injury to Berrick Barnes, accounted for 18 of the home side's points with two tries, two penalties and a conversion. Lachie Turner scored a late consolation to secure a losing bonus-point.
While they enjoyed the best of the scrummaging battle and decent possession, the Wallabies conceded too many turnovers to a fired-up South African side that was intent on playing with width and pace for the first time in this year's tournament.
Australia made a nervy start, Richard Brown palming du Preez's first clearance in to touch and allowing the Springbok centres to get their hands on the ball early. With the bone-dry grass underfoot allowing both sides to work through the phases, du Preez celebrated his 50th cap early by scoring the opening try.
After Jean de Villiers and fly-half Morne Steyn had stretched their defence, Australia's reluctant skipper George Smith was penalised at the ruck and du Preez sauntered over from a quick-tap. The home side's defence was caught napping, and after Brown fumbled a second kick in to touch the ramshackle Wallabies were staring down the barrel early on.
Hitting the ball at pace consistently and crossing the gain-line at will, the Springboks powered further ahead when Fourie scythed through the Australian line from first-phase possession. Giteau failed to press in the No.10 channel following a scrum, allowing the Springbok No.13 to dart through a yawning gap to score under the posts.
Steyn uncharacteristically missed the simple conversion before Giteau also missed a chance to pull three points back with a penalty following the Wallabies' first concerted period of pressure. The Springbok fly-half helped himself to a further three points when the Wallaby front-row was penalised by referee Bryce Lawrence, opening up a 15-point lead inside the first quarter.
Two promising periods of Australian attack were ended by elementary mistakes, Smith conjuring a forward pass and scrum-half Luke Burgess butchering a set move from an attacking scrum with some atrocious service to Giteau.
An offside call following a South African up 'n' under handed Giteau his second shot at the posts, but his effort sailed wide of the uprights to compound the Wallabies problems. It proved to be third time lucky as the Brumbies-bound fly-half slotted a penalty just before the half-hour mark, but a marauding Springbok maul drew a penalty as Smith surged in at the side.
Steyn was off target again with the kick but his disappointment was short-lived, as he was soon converting the Springboks' third try. Turner was the latest to drop a regulation high ball, allowing Habana to pounce on the loose ball and race over for his 34th Test try.
Giteau drew three points back with a penalty on the stroke of half-time and struck a vital blow after the resumption when he surged over for the Wallabies' first try. Some snappy work from James O'Connor and Adam Ashley-Cooper out wide led to a quick-tap penalty by Burgess, who popped the ball to Giteau.
The fly-half gambled from close range, seeing off several tacklers to score under the posts. After roaring his approval in the face of the Springbok defence he slotted the conversion.
The Wallabies dominated possession following the try, as the Springboks retreated back in to their shell, but an inch perfect clearance kick by JP Pietersen put them back on the front foot five metres from the opposition line. Stephen Moore overthrew his jumpers, allowing John Smit to gather and barge towards the line. The attack was ended with Habana knocking on over the line, but play was called back for an earlier Australian knock-on.
From the scrum the Wallabies were again punctured on first-phase ball, du Preez crabbing across field and using de Villiers as a decoy before releasing Habana on a clear run to the line for his second and the first try bonus-point of this season's Tri-Nations.
The Wallabies spurned a golden attacking opportunity as Springbok skipper Smit was put under huge pressure by their front-row, popping up and conceding a penalty. Giteau curled a fine kick in to touch, but Tatafu Polota-Nau hurled the ball straight to Pierre Spies at the ensuing five-metre lineout.
More pressure on the creaking Springbok scrum, Tendai Mtawarira pinged this time, brought further territorial reward for the home side but some ponderous backs play saw 16 phases wasted when Spies, Habana and Pietersen combined for a searing counter attack.
The scrum woes reversed when Ben Alexander was penalised in the shadow of his own posts and with the bonus-point already in the locker Steyn struck the ball through the uprights. Giteau increased his, and Australia's, haul with his second try following some fine work by replacement Quade Cooper but missed the drop-goal conversion to leave the Springboks 14 points clear.
Turner darted past a prone Victor Matfield to claim a losing bonus-point for the Wallabies in the final minute, an unusual lapse in an otherwise fine defensive display from the visitors who are on their way to Tri-Nations supremacy.