New Zealand beat South Africa 29-15 to move atop the Rugby Championship and keep the No. 1 world ranking. Australia held on to defeat Argentina 14-13 for its first win in this year’s competition.
No. 8 Kieran Read, standing in as captain for the injured Richie McCaw, led the All Blacks with two tries and fellow forwards Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane each touched down at Auckland’s Eden Park last night. South Africa played the last 39 minutes a man down after hooker Bismarck Du Plessis was sent off for getting two yellow cards, while the home team finished the game with 13 men following yellow cards to Read and Ma’a Nonu.
“It was a really intense Test match, one that had a bit of everything and I’m very proud of how we came through it,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a news conference. “In games like that you need the big players to stand up and they did.”
New Zealand’s 29th straight home win lifted it four points ahead of the Springboks in the southern hemisphere championship standings with two matches remaining. Australia’s one-point victory in Perth, the Wallabies’ first triumph under new coach Ewen McKenzie, moved it out of last place above the Pumas.
In a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the International Rugby Board rankings, Beauden Barrett kicked two conversions and a penalty for New Zealand after replacing fly-half Dan Carter, who sustained a shoulder injury in a 14th-minute tackle from Du Plessis that was ruled to have been dangerous and resulted in a yellow card.
Du Plessis was driven over for South Africa’s first try in between his two cards, the second of which came for elbowing Liam Messam in the throat. Pat Lambie touched down with five minutes left for the Springboks with Read and Nonu in the sin-bin. Morne Steyn kicked the other five points as South Africa fell to its first defeat in 10 matches.
“It was as hard as always when you play the All Blacks, but I guess the fact that we played with 14 men for 50 minutes did not make it any easier for us,” Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said in a televised interview. “We have seen tonight how far we are behind the All Blacks and credit must be given to them for the way they played. They are a fantastic team.”
Australia ended a run of four straight losses in wind and rain at Patersons Stadium, holding on for the win against the Pumas after failing to score a point in the second half.
Full-back Israel Folau beat three tacklers to score the fourth Test try of his rookie season midway through the first half, while inside center Christian Leali’ifano booted three penalties to give the Wallabies a 14-3 lead at the break.
A Nicolas Sanchez penalty and Juan Manuel Leguizamon’s converted try in the 64th minute cut the deficit to a point. Leali’ifano missed two penalties in the last 10 minutes either side of a scuffed drop-goal attempt by substitute fly-half Matt Toomua as the Wallabies failed to pull clear.
The Pumas had a chance to attack in the final minute, though were penalized for not throwing in straight at the line-out, enabling Australia to run down the clock.
“It feels like 100-nil to me,” Wallabies captain Ben Mowen said in a televised interview. “It was extremely tough conditions and we had to simplify things. We just had to navigate our way through that last 20 minutes. With this sort of wind and conditions you’ve just got to manage the territory.”
The teams now have a week off before South Africa hosts Australia and New Zealand travels to Argentina on Sept. 28.
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