THE ALL BLACKS scored the only try but paid the price for a lack of dominance at breakdowns where infringements allowed South African kicking ace Morné Steyn to kick his side to an 18-5 win in the Investec Tri Nations game in Port Elizabeth.
The Tri Nations title for 2011 will now be decided in Brisbane on Saturday when New Zealand plays Australia in their return encounter. New Zealand will be aware they will need to convert opportunities created better than was the case on Saturday. That ability to break the defence was offset by an inability to dominate the breakdown.
In the absence of Richie McCaw, South African flanker Heinrich Brussow reigned supreme and played a key role in his side's defence of its unbroken winning streak at Port Elizabeth.
It was a determined defensive effort by the home team with wing Bryan Habana outstanding in his defence, and especially his covering tackling.
The South African set pieces, scrums and lineouts, were also dominant and created the ideal platform to allow Steyn to play his strategic game of basically driving New Zealand back as often as possible.
Controversy occurred seven minutes into the second half after a magnificent break by fullback Israel Dagg. He fielded a South African kick in his own half and sliced through on a run to within five metres of the line. He passed to halfback Jimmy Cowan who scored but referee George Clancey asked the Television Match Official if the try had been scored.
The grounding was fair, but in delivering his verdict the TMO pointed out there had been a forward pass had been made to Cowan – a correct decision but one not generally allowed to be made by the official.
New Zealand had several chances for tries but sound South African defence stopped all but a 34th minute chance which was taken by centre Richard Kahui to cap off a set piece move from a New Zealand lineout.
Lock Ali Williams tapped the ball down from the back of a lineout. First five-eighths Colin Slade, who had a nervous 40 minutes, fed second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams who in-passed to wing Hosea Gear. He broke through and passed to Kahui who out-paced the defence to score in the tackle. Kahui impressed not only on attack with strong running, but also with some significant tackling efforts to suggest his shoulder problems of the past were not an issue.
Earlier, Dagg marked his return with an outstanding line break near the start of the game. He linked with halfback Cowan and it took a desperate covering tackle from Habana to halt the move five metres short of the line. Dagg also revealed no problems with his kicking when making some powerful punts.
Gear and Sonny Bill Williams combined with a fine passing rush when chasing a Slade grubber kick and they set up Kahui for another strong run but his attempt to find Gear on the outside was intercepted by centre Jaque Fourie.
Two other strong runs were made earlier by Cowan and wing Isaia Toeava, who made powerful runs throughout the game, to emphasise the ability of the New Zealanders to pressure the South African defences.
However, it was issues at the breakdowns which proved costly as Steyn was given chances in the seventh, ninth, 17th and 28th minutes with penalty goals and he made no mistake while in the 32nd minute he landed a dropped goal as South Africa got out to a 15-0 lead before New Zealand could respond.
Steyn's 58th minute penalty goal sealed the performance for his side.« Back to Articles
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.