All Blacks turn kicking pressure back on Springboks for win

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Constantly the options applied by halfbacks Aaron Smith and replacement TJ Perenara saw the ball kicked into the box. Hard chasing kept knocking the South Africans back behind the advantage line.

They were given little time to settle and it was the All Blacks who forced knock-on after knock-on from the Springboks who were forced into playing a level of catch-up they had not been used to. At times they appeared confused and paid the price.

The All Blacks forward pack applied their versatility to win a crucial scrum penalty at a key moment midway through the second half, tackled hard to minimise the effect of the anticipated South African lineout advantage, while also demonstrating their superior ball-handling capacity.

Flanker Ardie Savea was a key figure in the pack, strong, unrelenting and still able to make a big impact with his support play while lock Scott Barrett added extra impetus, especially in defence, but also in support play. When Patrick Tuipulotu replaced Cane at halftime, he again showed his power on defence.

The intent of the kicking game appeared to rattle the inside pairing of halfback Faf de Klerk and first five-eighths Handre Pollard, and also fullback Willie le Roux, who all failed to apply the accuracy in their kicking to create the necessary pressure on the New Zealanders.

All Blacks first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga showed deft touches, never more than in setting up the first try of the game with a clever tactical kick to wing Sevu Reece. Fullback Beauden Barrett was also dangerous whenever he got his hands on the ball while midfielders Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and replacement Sonny Bill Williams all made key contributions.

The Springboks did try to put short kicks behind the All Blacks during the first quarter but their efforts were well covered. The constant tackling intent of the New Zealanders wore South Africa down, and the desperation in their passing grew.

That created the first scoring opportunity for New Zealand when a poor pass from de Klerk dropped short of Pollard and he couldn't take the ball cleanly. Mo'unga pounced, kicking the ball through, picking it up and racing into the goalmouth. It took a desperate cover tackle by wing Makazole Mapimpi to deny a try. However, a penalty was gained and Mo'unga landed the goal which levelled the scores after Pollard had opened the scoring in the second minute.

From the restart the All Blacks secured the ball and Mo'unga kicked to the right to wing Sevu Reece. Taking the ball Reece beat Mapimpi with ease on the outside. Support was quickly at hand from Aaron Smith. He passed inside flanker Ardie Savea, who had an impressive first half both in support, defence and with the ball in hand. He charged into the 22, and when the ball emerged fullback Beauden Barrett was outside Mo'unga.

He took on the Springbok line and broke into space to feed wing George Bridge in for the 22nd minute try.

Four minutes later, Pollard was unable to secure a box kick from Smith and flanker Sam Cane, who suffered a head knock and didn't play in the second half, was perfectly positioned to take the rebound. The ball was moved through many All Blacks hands before hooker Dane Coles switched play back to the left.

He lobbed an overhead pass to Lienert-Brown on the left flank and he cut back, beating two defenders and finding space where Scott Barrett loomed up inside him, having been prominent in the earlier set-up play, to run in between the posts.

It was wing Cheslin Kolbe who sparked life into the South Africans in the second half, who made a superb sideline break and was only halted by a desperate tackle by Mo'unga. When the ball was played into the in-goal area, Barrett attempted to run it out with Lienert-Brown but it was South Africa who drove back at the line.

 

And as the pressure was maintained it was flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit who picked up the ball and strode across for the easiest of tries.

However, with the game becoming more of a tighter grind between the packs as the substitutes took the field, the All Blacks secured penalty goal chances to Mo'unga in the 65th minute and Barrett in the 71st to take the game beyond South Africa who got to 17-13 behind when Pollard dropped a 55th minute goal.

As a statement, it was a reminder of the ability to play a tough forward game while giving more games ahead to work more on their attacking structure to apply in the playoffs.

Scorers: New Zealand 23 (George Bridge, Scott Barrett tries; Richie Mo'unga 2 con, 2 pen; Beauden Barrett pen) South Africa 13 (Pieter-Steph du Toit tries; Handre Pollard con, pen, dropped goal ). HT: 17-3

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