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All Blacks come from behind to beat South Africa

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New Zealand’s All Blacks edged closer to securing the 2015 Rugby Championship title by beating South Africa 20-27 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

The 2015 Rugby Championship has been shortened to three rounds and New Zealand have won two of their three matches so far with one match remaining.

With just two losing bonus points from their two matches South Africa cannot win the title and will start the third and final round in Durban against Argentina having lost their last three Tests.

All Black captain Richie McCaw marked his 140th appearance for New Zealand with a smart try six minutes from time that sealed the victory for New Zealand.

The All Blacks flanker won a line-out close to the Springboks line in a planned manouevre and brushed off the challenge of scrum-half Ruan Pienaar to score.

Debutant fly-half Lima Sopoaga converted and kicked a last-minute penalty to seal a sixth New Zealand triumph in their last seven clashes with South Africa.

For the Springboks, the game was a carbon copy of the loss last weekend in Australia as they once again led for most of the 80 minutes only to concede a late try.

South Africa were left ruing a 10-minute second-half spell when they had a numerical advantage after replacement lock Sam Whitelock was sin-binned, but failed to score.

An absorbing clash between the world number one-ranked All Blacks and second-ranked Springboks indicated why they are among the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup in England from mid-September.

“We kept persevering when behind and took our opportunities when they came,” said McCaw, who needs one more cap to equal the world record of retired Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll.

“Keeping the Springboks scoreless when we were down to 14 men was crucial and we held our nerve before hitting back.

“Give credit to South Africa, too, as they had us under the pump during the first half. It was a satisfying victory, but we can do a lot better.”

Springboks skipper and loose forward Schalk Burger, who shone in the loose, said : “This was the second weekend in a row that we did not take all our chances and paid the price.

“We must learn to close out games when ahead. With the World Cup looming, we desperately need the momentum that victories bring.”

New Zealand are famed for scoring late in the opening half and they did it again to leave the teams level at 10-10 after 40 exciting, fast-paced minutes on a chilly evening.

A turnover, a clever inside pass from centre Ma’a Nonu, and a break by Sopoaga set up right winger Ben Smith to score after 40 minutes.

Sopoaga, who opened the scoring with a close-range third-minute penalty awarded for a Springbok going off his feet at a ruck, converted.

The first-half highlight for South Africa came on 10 minutes when a turnover triggered a try by full-back Willie le Roux.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis caught slow-reacting All Blacks No. 8 Kieran Read in possession, South Africa stole the ball and an inside pass from centre Jesse Kriel allowed Le Roux to dot down.

Fly-half Handre Pollard converted for a four-point advantage that stretched to seven when he slotted a penalty after New Zealand flanker Liam Messam high-tackled Kriel.

Both teams had cause for satisfaction after the first half, with the Springboks solid in the scrums, combative at the breakdowns and strong in defence.

New Zealand took the lone first-half line-out steal and the world champions always threatened with the ball in hand.

South Africa regained the lead seven minutes into the second half as Kriel burst between vastly-experienced centres Nonu and Conrad Smith to score a try that Pollard converted.

But the lead lasted just three minutes before New Zealand hooker Dane.Coles scored a similar try, displaying the power of a forward and pace of a back to go over and Sopoaga converted.

Another Pollard penalty restored the lead for South Africa, and they stayed 20-17 ahead until McCaw struck the decisive blow before a sell-out 63,000 crowd.

Title-holders New Zealand top the Championship table with nine points, Australia have four, South Africa two and Argentina are pointless.

All Black winger Charles Piutau was named man of the match.

Final Score South Africa 20 (10) New Zealand 27 (10)

Scorers

South Africa
Tries – J.Kriel , W. Le Roux
Pen – H.Pollard 2
Con – H.Pollard 2
Drop –

New Zealand
Tries – B.Smth, D.Coles, R.McCaw
Pen – L.Sopoaga 2
Con – L.Sopoaga 3
Drop –
Cards – S.Whitelock (60th min yellow)

Match Officials
Referee: Jerome Garces
Assistant Ref 1:Romain Poite
Assistant Ref 2:Leighton Hodges
TMO : Graham Hughes

Teams

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux , 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel , 12 Damian de Allende , 11 Bryan Habana , 10 Handre Pollard , 9 Ruan Pienaar (vc) , 8 Schalk Burger (c) , 7 Francois Louw , 6 Heinrich Brussow , 5 Lood de Jager , 4 Eben Etzebeth , 3 Jannie du Plessis , 2 Bismarck du Plessis , 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss , 17 Trevor Nyakane , 18 Vincent Koch , 19 Flip van der Merwe , 20 Warren Whiteley , 21 Cobus Reinach , 22 Pat Lambie , 23 Lionel Mapoe

New Zealand

Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Charles Piutau; Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam; James Broadhurst, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.

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