All Blacks close in on Tri-Nations title
August 10, 2002
Richie McCaw and AJ Venter come to the aid of referee David McHugh
© Getty Images
New Zealand have one hand on the Tri Nations title following a hard fought 30-23 victory over South Africa at Absa Stadium in Durban.
The game was marred by a shocking incident shortly after the break when a Springbok fan invaded the pitch and tackled referee David McHugh. Irishman McHugh was forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury after players from both sides stepped in to restrain the attacker and was replaced by England's Chris White.
The result means that Australia must beat South Africa by 26 points and claim a bonus point next week in Johannesburg if they are to stop the title going to New Zealand. In an exciting but error strewn game the promise of a running rugby spectacle was fulfilled with both sides showing their willingness to attack at pace.
Springbok debutant scrum-hlaf Neil de Kock opened the scoring for the homeside in a classic counter attack after a sustained bout of pressure from the All Blacks. But the New Zealanders were quick to reply with Mehrtens orchestrating a move that saw fullback Leon MacDonald go over for a score.
Referee McHugh then courted controversy by awarding a penalty try for a high tackle on Tana Umaga by centre De Wet Barry with the try line within reach and then disallowing a Breton Paulse try for the Boks for an infringement at an earlier ruck.
But the Boks responded in the best way with a try from flyhalf Andre Pretorius who was able to gather up the loose ball following his initial chip through. But the scores were tied 17-17 at the break following a try in the corner from Doug Howlett. Shortly after the break came the 10 minute delay following the pitch invasion and when play began again the Boks showed some great attacking flair.
A Pretorius penalty and a drop goal opposed to a penalty from Mehrtens gave the Boks the edge midway through the second half and despite showing great promise South Africa couldn't stretch their advantage.
Mehrtens soon levelled the score with his boot and Aaron Mauger crossed for a crucial score to ensure a bonus point. The All Blacks were able to hold on to their lead and must now wait and see if the Wallabies can pip them to the Tri Nations title.
Springboks - Tries: Neil de Kock, Andre Pretorius; Conversions: Pretorius (2); Penalties: Pretorius (2); Drop-goal: Pretorius.
All Blacks - Tries: Leon MacDonald, Doug Howlett, Aaron Mauger and a penalty try; Conversions: Andrew Mehrtens (2); Penalties: Mehrtens (2).
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup