Australia 30-13 South Africa, Tri-Nations, Brisbane, July 24
Wallabies heap woe on Springboks
July 24, 2010
Australia's James O'Connor is wrapped up by the Springboks' defence
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Australia opened their Tri-Nations account with an impressive 30-13 victory over South Africa at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Tries from winger Drew Mitchell and scrum-half Will Genia proved decisive, with a resurgent Matt Giteau weighing in with 15 points with the boot in a highly-entertaining clash. The Springboks' indiscipline returned to haunt them with yellow cards for centre Jacque Fourie and prop BJ Botha, but they rallied late in the game with tries from Fourie and prop Gurthro Steenkamp. However, the Walllabies, who also lost fly-half Quade Cooper to a second-half sin-binning, held on to notch a deserved victory built on superior pace and intensity that sees South Africa return home without a point from their opening three Tri-Nations clashes.
The game did not begin well for the Springboks with their indiscipline proving their downfall again as it was in their recent back-to-back defeats to New Zealand. A reckless tackle from Fourie on Wallabies No.8 Richard Brown was spotted by the assistant referee and he was subsequently shown a yellow card by referee George Clancy with just two minutes on the clock. Replays showed the Bok centre had lifted his man dropped him head first into the turf, leaving Clancy with little choice but to sanction the visitors and reduce them to 14-men for the third successive game.
The Wallabies looked to capitalise by stretching the South African defence but they lacked the precision to make their numbers count, while the Boks bravely attempted to match their rivals' commitment to a fast and expansive game.
Springboks fly-half Morne Steyn was short with an adventurous drop goal attempt as the visitors looked to make the most of their territorial dominance and it looked as if they would escape unscathed in Fourie's absence until Giteau landed a long-range penalty to open the scores. Loose-head Benn Robinson and wing James O'Connor then combined to butcher an opening created by an electric break from Genia and an infringement at the breakdown allowed Steyn to level things up with his first penalty of the game. But a rare error from Springboks wing Bryan Habana handed the Wallabies great field position soon after and a penalty against the speedster allowed Giteau to land his second penalty.
Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom was the next to cut a great line through the Springboks and the flanker powered into the 22 where some desperate defence held the home side up. A sustained spell of pressure eventually saw O'Connor denied in the corner by a great tackle from Habana but play was called back for an earlier penalty against the Boks that Giteau slotted to extend his side's lead.
A huge tackle from Wallabies centre Rob Horne on Fourie underlined the physical nature of the game but the Boks were undeterred with No.8 Pierre Spies and fullback Zane Kirchner going close only to see the hosts scramble the ball away. Instead it was the Wallabies who kept the scoreboard ticking over with Giteau making it four from four.
The Boks raised their game again as the half drew to a close with flankers Ryan Kankowski and Schalk Burger combining well to create an opening for Habana, who was hauled down just short by a great try-saving tackle from Wallabies flanker David Pocock. The effort was typical of the kind of commitment shown throughout the game by the Western Force openside on his way to the man of the match honour. But he was guilty of a penalty at the ensuing breakdown and the Boks gambled by opting for a scrum - a decision they would later regret with Pocock again the thorn in their side in a massive turning point in the match.
The increasingly-assured Wallabies responded with a great score just before the break. Elsom proved elusive in the Springboks' 22 before Giteau weaved some magic with the Boks' defence closing in and Mitchell juggled the ball before securing it and touching down for the try. Giteau pulled the conversion wide of the posts but his side ended the half firmly in control of the contest.
Kankowski blotted his copybook with a penalty soon after the re-start and the result was Giteau's fifth penalty. The dancing feet of O'Connor then sparked a move that saw Mitchell carve his way across field and Pocock added weight to the attack to take his side close to the line. The ball was eventually worked wide to Mitchell who ran out of room as he attempted to score in the corner - but play was called back once again for a penalty against Bok tight-head BJ Botha who was sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball before Giteau slotted the kick.
To their credit, the Springboks rallied but they were plagued by slow ball and the Wallabies snuffed out the danger with relative ease. But the home side's eagerness got the better of them with Cooper guilty of a dangerous tackle on Steyn that saw the Wallabies' play-maker become the third player to be sent to the sin-bin.
South Africa opted to replace Steyn and inside centre Wynand Olivier with Butch James and Juan de Jongh in the hope of sparking a turnaround in their fortunes and the result was positive. The Boks eventually made their numbers count with a try for Fourie who showed great upper body strength to shake off the Wallabies' defence and force his way over just past the hour mark. Pienaar pushed the conversion attempt wide of the posts to leave his side 15 points adrift with a quarter of the game remaining.
Cooper's return made it an even contest once more before the Springboks' indiscipline handed Giteau the chance to edge his side nearer victory but his long-range effort fell well short. The impressive Fourie was then hauled down by Mitchell on the Wallabies' 22 after another strong run but the tackle failed to halt the Springboks' momentum. Steenkamp collected the ball from a towering Matfield at the next lineout before being driven over for a well-worked try that breathed further life into their challenge. But once again Pienaar failed to add the extras in what would be his last contribution to the game.
Any hopes of a dramatic late escape were dashed by Genia, who darted over from close range with five minutes remaining to put the result beyond doubt. O'Connor kicked the conversion to cap a fine personal display and set the seal on a famous win.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.