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South Africa blow late chances to let All Blacks off the hook

South Africa had two great opportunities to snatch a win in Wellington.

Kieran Read's sumptuous offload for Richie McCaw's try proved the difference.
Kieran Read's sumptuous offload for Richie McCaw's try proved the difference.
Image: Photosport/Chris Symes/INPHO

THE ALL BLACKS have a third successive Rugby Championship crown in their sights after beating South Africa 14-10 in a top-of-the-table clash involving the world’s top ranked sides today.

It was a match which South Africa desperately wanted to win to cap celebrations for captain Jean de Villiers’ 100th Test, but instead they came up just short despite repeatedly hammering the All Blacks line in the closing 10 minutes.

The All Blacks, who defended a proud record of not having been beaten on home soil in 34 matches dating back to 2009, dominated territory and possession for most of the match.

But they were guilty of poor skill execution and a predictable game plan that the Springboks easily read and came close to trumping.

The tourists shored up the inside channel where Brodie Retallick lead the All Blacks runners at fledgling Springbok out-half Handre Pollard, and put sweepers in to cover the excessive All Blacks kicking.

The All Blacks points came from a try to Richie McCaw, two penalties by Aaron Cruden and a penalty to Beauden Barrett.

For South Africa, who saw their title hopes slip further away, Cornal Hendricks scored a try with Pollard landing the conversion and a drop goal.

It was a second consecutive defeat for South Africa after losing 24-23 to Australia last week when Bryan Habana reached his century of Tests.

Although the All Blacks controlled much of the game they were guilty of too many turnovers and it took a penalty from Cruden in the 10th minute to put the All Blacks on the board.

The 20-year-Pollard refused to be rattled from all the attention he was getting and two minutes later, the international novice was instrumental in setting up the Springboks opening try.

After drilling the All Blacks into the corner with a sweet kick, he then put Cornal Hendricks through a gap for the right wing to step around Israel Dagg to score.

Cruden closed the gap to 6-7 with his second penalty after captain Richie McCaw was held up over the line but was unsuccessful with a third attempt just on half-time that would have regained the lead for the All Blacks at the turn.

The All Blacks opening try came early in the second half with a well-weighted cross kick to Kieran Read and he was able to stand up in the de Villiers tackle to pop a sublime pass to McCaw who scored in the corner.

Scrum-half Aaron Smith, who blew a first half try opportunity when he lost the ball diving for the line, missed a second opportunity in the second spell when he toed the ball over the line only to be outsprinted by Willie le Roux.

Pollard brought the Springboks within a point of the lead with a drop goal to narrow the gap to 11-10 before replacement All Blacks out-half Beauden Barrett landed a penalty to extend the margin to four points.

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