05 July 2008

All Blacks' control secures victory

Another spirited All Blacks performance extended their home winning run to 30 Tests and began their Philips Tri Nations campaign with a 19-8 win over South Africa in chilly conditions at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

Both sides scored a try apiece but again it was the goal-kicking class of first five-eighths Dan Carter that made the difference. The fact Springbok ace Butch James had few occasions to kick for goal told the story of the superior discipline of the home side.

Fearsome tackling, off-the-ball niggle and solid scrummaging, most of it from the All Blacks, encapsulated nearly 90 years of contests that have been played out between the two great rivals. But what made the effort all the more impressive for the home side was that victory was achieved in the absence of captain Richie McCaw, who had been considered an integral part of the side.

It wasn't a place for the faint-hearted but of the All Blacks, lock Ali Williams thrived in the close quarter combat with some hard work on the ball and some outstanding individual touches in the loose, including a 40m clearing kick from the All Blacks goalline when standing in at first five-eighths.

But there was no doubt the All Blacks deserved the win. They were more organised and looked better equipped to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the ELVs.

Carter had another superb game in the face of some determined South African attempts to halt him and apart from the 14 points he scored, he nearly had a try from a chargedown. It was only the speed of wing Bryan Habana in getting back in cover that denied the Kiwi ace.

South Africa scored the only try of the first half, after 36 minutes, when Habana capped fast work at a breakdown which allowed centres Adrian Jacobs and Jean de Villiers to combine and create space for Habana to put his speed to use before he aqua-planed in to score.

The South Africans did suffer the loss of their skipper and hooker John Smit at that stage when he limped off the field with a foot injury.

However, three penalty goals landed by Carter gave New Zealand a halftime advantage which reflected its superiority at scrums and in lineouts.

Four minutes into the second half a concentrated period of attack from the All Blacks saw the ball moved wide. Carter avoided South African defenders to slip a pass wide to lock Brad Thorn and he fed No.8 Jerome Kaino in for the try which Carter converted from wide out.

On a night of kick and chase both teams were guilty of flakey decisions under pressure but it was the All Blacks who chased better and who looked best equipped to take advantage of situations gained.

Kaino looked to score his second try after 57 minutes after good lead-up work by Ma'a Nonu. Carter's classy kick set it up for Kaino to run from an angle but it was ruled he was offside - a close call.

Bad weather again dominated the match in cool conditions and rain that eased slightly after the kick-off.

Carter and James traded penalty goals in the fourth and sixth minutes, James as a result of a high tackle by Adam Thomson on fullback Conrad Jantjes. A brawl broke out after Thorn dumped South African John Smith in something suspiciously close to a spear tackle.

Carter added his second after 20 minutes when Smit got offside in a lineout and added his third after 28 minutes. But it was his 70th minute goal when South Africa was offside again that put New Zealand in its comfort zone.


New Zealand 19 (Jerome Kaino try; Dan Carter con, 4 pen) South Africa 8 (Bryan Habana try; Butch James pen). HT: 9-8

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