Last-gasp Howlett seals it for New Zealand
July 24, 2004
Doug Howlett dives over to score in the closing seconds of the game to seal victory for the All Blacks
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New Zealand grabbed a last-gasp 23-21 victory over South Africa in a heart-stopping Tri-Nations match at Jade Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday. Wing Doug Howlett's try - the All Blacks' only of the match - in the right-hand corner sealed the win. This was after the All Blacks went into the second half trailing 21-12.
The match got off to as dramatic a start as any in the illustrious history between the sides as South Africa touched down after just 23 seconds. Skipper John Smit snatched a loose ball when Justin Marshall was nowhere to be seen at the base of a ruck. Centre De Wet Barry ran into space and off-loaded to Jean de Villiers, who had come in on an angle. Gwent Dragons fullback Percy Montgomery converted, his first of three two-pointers in the first half.
For 20 minutes thereafter, however, the All Blacks had the Springboks on the ropes, dominating territory and possession, and forcing them into mistakes. Centre Dan Carter's first penalty rebounded off the post, but three in 15 minutes had the Kiwis sitting pretty at 12-7.
But the game swung back South Africa's way when scrumhalf Fourie du Preez broke from a scrum and chipped. Flank AJ Venter picked the ball up superbly and found No 8 Jacques Cronje with a stunning pass for the try.
Carter decreased the deficit by two points 10 minutes before the break, but a stunning try in the 35th minute by Du Preez gave the Boks a cushion from which they should have gone on to win the match.
Schalk Burger's pop pass to Du Preez came after Montgomery and centre Marius Joubert had gained some decent yardage in the build-up. But New Zealand came out in a relentless frame of mind in the second half and their dominance was absolute. They had 125 rucks and mauls to South Africa's 39, 68% territory and 73% possession in the match.
The Springboks' tackling was awesome and they neutralised the All Blacks' outside backs that way. But penalties were inevitable conceded. New Zealand slowly chipped away and Carter obliged with two penalties. Then, in the final minute, the dam wall finally burst as the All Blacks patiently wore their opponents down through countless phases.
There were two set-piece incidents in the final seven minutes that kept the pressure on the Boks. First New Zealand turned their ball over with a powerful scrum - a feature of their game all night - and second South Africa threw a lineout ball over the top and failed to control the ball.
It was heartbreaking stuff for South Africa, but ultimately deserved for the All Blacks in a match where their forwards exerted a stranglehold.
New Zealand: Try: Doug Howlett. Penalties: Daniel Carter (5),Carlos Spencer.
South Africa: Tries:Jean de Villiers, Jacques Cronje, Fourie du Preez. Conversions: Percy Montgomery (3).