New Zealand 31-27 South Africa, Tri-Nations
All Blacks beat Springboks in classic
August 27, 2005
Keven Mealamu barges over for the winning try
© Getty Images
The All Blacks dug deep to score late and beat the Springboks 31-27 in a classic test between rugby´s two great rivals on Saturday night, setting them up to win the Tri-Nations.
A try with three minutes remaining to New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu handed South Africa their first defeat of the tournament. The Springboks still lead the Tri-Nations standings on 13 points but will be passed by the All Blacks if they beat Australia in final series test at Auckland next Saturday.
The All Blacks had to call on all their character after an error-ridden second half performance saw the Springboks take the lead with 15 minutes remaining.
It looked like their tenacious defence would carry the visitors to a clean sweep and their third consecutive defeat of their arch rivals before Mealamu crossed. It bore the hallmarks of last year´s test between the teams at Christchurch when the All Blacks needed a try in injury time to win.
New Zealand, who led 21-17 at halftime, scored four tries to three, two of them to left winger Joe Rokocoko. All three Springboks tries came from All Blacks mistakes, mirroring the tactics they have employed to good effect through the tournament.
After a bright start, dewy conditions on a cold Dunedin night made handling more difficult as the match wore on. The second half was a particularly stop-start affair -- with the All Blacks becoming increasingly frustrated by their inability to break down rugged Springboks defence.
While the All Blacks made more breaks than their opponents, they were frequently foiled by penalties or driven back by some accurate punting from the Springboks.
New Zealand changed their tactics from the 16-22 loss at Cape Town three weeks ago, employing bombs and forwards running one-off around rucks.
With halfback Piri Weepu controlling this gameplan, the All Blacks dominated much of the first spell. A new-look haka created much interest before kickoff but it was Percy Montgomery who began the scoring via a Springboks penalty.
Slightly fortuitous tries to both teams´ left wingers brought a soldout Carisbrook to life inside the opening 10 minutes.
Rokocoko put the All Blacks ahead when he leapt to field an attempted clearing kick from Springboks first five-eighth Andre Pretorius which had been partially charged by Aaron Mauger.
He crossed in the corner, with Leon MacDonald´s sideline conversion providing the fullback-turned-first five-eighth with an early confidence boost.
However, Springboks wing Bryan Habana replied in typically opportunistic try, dashing 25m when the ball spilled out of an All Blacks ruck.
Down 7-10 after 20 minutes, New Zealand appeared to clamp control of the game with two quick tries.
Montgomery spilled a bomb, allowing Mealamu to scoop up and send MacDonald on a 40m run under the crossbar.
Rokocoko´s second try was a remarkable effort from 20m out, as he picked up the ball from the base of a ruck and slipped through the tackles of five Springboks forwards before diving over.
Springboks halfback Rickie Januarie reduced the halftime deficit to 17-21 just before the break when he charged down a MacDonald clearance to score.
Montgomery reduced the lead to one point with a 51st-minute penalty, moments after a fiery stoush between both forward packs emanating from a scrum.
Januarie made the All Blacks pay for their sluggishness again, intercepting a pass by flanker Jerry Collins and cleverly sending centre Jacque Fourie over next to the goalposts.
The All Blacks then swung on to attack, flanker Richie McCaw narrowly missing out on a try from a tap penalty. However, there was no stopping Mealamu, who burrowed over off the back of an All Blacks lineout drive from 10m out.
The result maintained New Zealand´s unbeaten run against the Springboks at Carisbrook, which now stands at seven, and was their 15th consecutive home test win.