All Blacks retain world No.1 ranking
September 14, 2013
Dan Carter left the field early in the first half with a shoulder injury
© Getty Images
New Zealand defeated South Africa in a pulsating battle for the world No.1 ranking at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday, but the Springboks will lament the effect of Romain Poite on The Rugby Championship Test after the French referee controversially sin-binned Bismarck du Plessis in the first half then dismissed the hooker for a second yellow card two minutes into the second stanza.
Du Plessis received his first yellow card when, from an offside position, his high tackle on Dan Carter led to the All Blacks fly-half going off with what looked to be a dislocated shoulder which could rule him out of the remainder of the tournament. The hooker was then sent from the field in the 42nd minute when he received a second yellow card following an elbow on flanker Liam Messam.
Stand-in New Zealand captain Kieran Read, inspirational in last week's defeat of Argentina, again impressed with two tries as the hosts maintained their unbeaten record. The All Blacks' bonus point win ensured they climbed to top spot in the four-team championship, four points ahead of the second-placed Springboks.
Without skipper Richie McCaw, the onus was on Read to lead his new-look forward pack from the front and he did just that by slapping the ball down from a maul in the fourth minute. Emotions ran high when Carter failed to rise from the turf following Du Plessis' 16th-minute challenge. French referee Romain Poite deemed it a shoulder charge, with replays of the incident supporting claims of a fair tackle.
The ensuing scuffle that involved almost every player on the field seemed to spark something in the All Blacks. The increase in energy was personified by replacement Beauden Barrett, whose scintillating burst through the line took the All Blacks inside the attacking 22. Scanning across to the left, Conrad Smith found space which allowed him to set lock Brodie Retallick away to score under the posts.
Du Plessis dotted down from a maul after a kickable penalty was turned down as the first half finished with New Zealand 17-10 ahead. However, South African shoulders dropped when Du Plessis' interest in the contest ended when he led with his elbow into the tackle of Messam.
His second yellow card - and automatic red - was then compounded by Read's second five-pointer under the posts. Down to 14 men for the remaining 39 minutes of the match, it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for the Springboks, winless in Auckland since 1937.
In some ways, the playing field was evened out when Read and Ma'a Nonu were sin-binned in quick succession, reducing the All Blacks to 13 men for the last seven minutes. While Messam was able to recover from the blow he took from Du Plessis' elbow, Steve Hansen will sweat over the fitness of full-back Israel Dagg, who was replaced by Charles Piutau at half-time after his knee clashed with winger Bryan Habana.
The stand-in skipper came close to notching an impressive hat-trick before his hands failed him when he attempted to ground Julian Savea's grubber. By then the South Africans were firmly on the back foot and Sam Cane muscled his way across the line for a well-deserved try in the final quarter, before replacement Patrick Lambie crossed in the left corner for the visitors.
Kieran Read scored the first try of the match © Getty Images
New Zealand defeated South Africa in a tough contest (video available only in Australia)
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