New Zealand, Australia, South Africa Seal Rugby Series Wins

New Zealand and Australia won with late scores and South Africa held off England as the world’s top three rugby teams clinched series victories yesterday against northern hemisphere teams. Argentina beat France 23-20.

Australia defeated Wales 25-23 as Mike Harris scored a penalty goal with the final kick of the game. Dan Carter’s last-minute drop goal gave world champion New Zealand a 22-19 win over Ireland and South Africa withstood a second half rally to beat England 36-27.

“We’re quite relieved to be honest,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said in a televised interview. “It turned into a typical arm-wrestle.”

The All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks lead their series 2-0 heading into the finales June 23.

Harris’s kick after the final siren gave Australia the victory at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Wallabies fly-half Berrick Barnes, who returned to the squad about two hours before kickoff following the birth of his first child, kicked 17 points and set up center Rob Horne for his team’s only try.

“I was worried for a while that I wasn’t going to make it back but everything went right and I was really glad to be able to represent my country,” Barnes said in a news conference. “It’s been a really emotional day.”

Leigh Halfpenny kicked 13 points for Six Nations champion Wales, which got tries through George North and Jonathan Davies.

“I don’t think you can get any closer than that to be honest,” Welsh captain Sam Warburton said in a televised interview.

All Blacks Rally

New Zealand rallied from a 10-0 first-half deficit in Christchurch to beat Ireland for the 25th time in 26 meetings. The All Blacks played the final eight minutes with 14 men after full-back Israel Dagg was sent to the sin bin.

“We had them in trouble a few times, but the score line still says an All Blacks victory which is difficult to take considering the amount of effort that went in,” Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll said.

Carter finished with 17 points, while Aaron Smith scored the only New Zealand try. Conor Murray touched down for Ireland, which was routed in the series opener last week 42-10, and Jonathan Sexton kicked 14 points.

South Africa dominated England in the first half, though needed a 72nd-minute try from JP Pietersen to clinch the victory at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Early Lead

The Springboks got tries from Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Hougaard in the opening 20 minutes to take a 22-3 lead. Ben Youngs touched down twice in the second half as England pulled within 31-27 before Pietersen’s try clinched victory.

“The first 20 minutes killed us and we were always playing catchup,” Youngs told Sky Sports. “Great spirit by the boys but at the end, it didn’t count for much.”

Toby Flood scored a third try for England, while also kicking 12 points. Morne Steyn booted 16 points for the Springboks.

This year marks a return to best-of-three Test series as rugby administrators seek to make games more meaningful in the June international period, during which touring northern hemisphere teams have typically sent understrength squads to the southern hemisphere.

In Cordoba, Argentina, the home team also scored late to take a 1-0 lead in its two-match series against France. Winger Manuel Montero scored a try with four minutes remaining that was converted by Pumas captain Felipe Contepomi. The teams meet again next week in Tucuman.

Scotland earlier beat Fiji 37-25 in their only Test in Lautoka. Tim Visser scored two tries on his debut for Scotland, which finishes its three-Test tour of the southern hemisphere in seven days against ninth-ranked Samoa in Apia.

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