All Blacks Seal Rugby Championship Sweep as Wallabies Beat Pumas

New Zealand beat South Africa 38-27 to retain the Rugby Championship title with its second straight sweep of the southern hemisphere competition. Australia routed Argentina 54-17 to leave the Pumas winless in last place.

Liam Messam touched down twice as the All Blacks outscored South Africa five tries to four yesterday in a match featuring five changes of lead at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park. Bryan Habana got two tries for the Springboks, who entered the game needing a bonus-point victory by more than seven points to take the trophy and ran the ball at every opportunity.

“That’s a hell of a match to win,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said at the post-match presentation. “I haven’t seen the Springboks play a game like that for a long time. I’m just proud of the way the boys just dug in. There were a couple of times when we just lost momentum but kept believing.”

The All Blacks have now won all 12 of their matches in the southern hemisphere’s annual championship since Argentina joined last year. They also secured 10 of the 16 editions of the Tri-Nations, the competition’s predecessor.

New Zealand finished atop the standings with 28 points, nine more than the Springboks. South Africa could have snatched the title by earning the maximum five points for winning and scoring at least four tries and stopping the All Blacks from getting a bonus point of their own.

“Rugby’s about attack and defense and unfortunately our defense wasn’t up to it,” said Springboks captain Jean de Villiers. “We would have loved to have won this game. The rugby that was dished up was a great advertisement for rugby all around the world. We can be proud in the way that we played.”

Record Breaker

After South Africa’s Morne Steyn opened the scoring with a penalty, All Blacks winger Ben Smith scored his eighth try of the competition to set the record for a single tournament. Aaron Cruden converted to give the Kiwis a 7-3 lead.

Habana touched down twice in two minutes to give the Springboks a 15-7 lead before going off with a hamstring injury. Messam then scored his two tries, the second coming in first-half added time after his fellow back-row forward Kieran Read stole a turnover. Cruden converted both to put New Zealand 21-15 up at half time.

The All Blacks were reduced to 14 men early in the second half as Messam was sin-binned by referee Nigel Owens. South Africa immediately regained the lead 22-21 on Willie Le Roux’s try and Steyn’s conversion.

Beauden Barrett’s penalty put New Zealand back in front before de Villiers powered over for the Springboks’ fourth try, earning the bonus point, for a 27-24 lead.

Solo Try

Barrett got the All Blacks’ fourth try, securing the bonus point needed to guarantee the title, with a solo effort in the 60th minute that he converted himself.

With the All Blacks a man down again after prop Ben Franks was yellow carded, No. 8 Read finished off a breakaway down the narrow side to run in under the posts and Barrett converted to close the scoring 15 minutes from the end.

“The guys are shattered right now,” Read said after being named man of the match. “It was a huge effort. The Springboks really brought it to us. To get a win up here is massive from our point of view.”

In the tournament’s closing match in Rosario, the Wallabies ran in seven tries against Argentina and racked up their biggest points total in Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship history.

Full-back Israel Folau scored a hat trick with wingers Adam Ashley-Cooper and Joe Tomane, prop Benn Robinson and replacement fly-half Bernard Foley also touching down. Marcelo Bosch and Martin Landajo got Argentina’s tries and Nicolas Sanchez booted two conversions and a penalty.

Christian Leali’ifano, Quade Cooper and Foley, making his Test debut, kicked the other 19 points as the Wallabies secured their second win from six matches under new coach Ewen McKenzie.

“It’s a real confidence booster for us,” Australia captain James Horwill said in a televised interview. “We’ve been working very hard and it’s good to see some of the things we’ve been working on come off.”

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