New Zealand were relentless in their pursuit of a record-equalling 17th consecutive Test win as they ground out a 57-15 win over traditional rivals South Africa in their final 2016 Rugby Championship clash at Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday.
The final result was never in doubt from the time All Blacks rightwing Israel Dagg crossed for the first of six tries which went answered after 80 minutes of play. Had flyhalf Beauden Barrett had his kicking boots on the All Blacks’ victory margin would have been far greater.
The Boks showed improvement in some aspects of their play, but on the day they were outclassed and the fact that they failed to cross the whitewash reflected the All Blacks’ vice-like grip on the match.
French referee Jérôme Garcès penalised the All Blacks for a breakdown infringement in the third minute and Bok flyhalf Morné Steyn, kicking into a breeze, goaled from the halfway line (3-0).
Three minutes later, Steyn’s opposite number Beauden Barrett had a chance to respond but his effort was fractionally wide.
Bok inside centre Juan de Jongh had the crowd on the edge of their seats soon afterwards when he snatched a no-look back pass by the All Blacks but his kick ahead was cleaned up some five metres from the All Blacks tryline.
Bok flanker Francois Louw left the field with a leg injury and he was replaced by Jaco Kriel, but the team’s scoreboard fortunes went one better soon afterwards when Steyn was on target with a second penalty (6-0).
Out wide, on both sides of the field, the All Blacks looked dangerous as the Boks defence battled to contain the upfield surges but there was always a hint that the breakthrough would come sooner than later. It came midway through the first half when rightwing Israel Dagg ran in untouched. Barrett fluffed the conversion as it hit the upright (6-5).
More good fortune followed for the Boks when the All Blacks were blown up for a deliberate knockdown and Steyn punished the indiscretion by adding three more points to the tally for a four-point lead in the 26th minute (9-5).
The lead was short-lived, however, as the All Blacks produced a wave of attacks which the Boks met with all-out commitment on defence but that was not enough to prevent a second try after scrumhalf TJ Perenara wormed his way through a maze of players. Barrett was on target this time and the visitors opened a 12-9 lead.
The pressure persisted in the ensuing play and right on halftime the Boks only just managed to keep the All Blacks at bay.
When play resumed it was more of the same and a mere four minutes into the second half, Dagg went over when the Boks were unable to offer protection out wide. Barrett was again wide with the conversion attempt (17-9).
Steyn kept the Boks in touch with the game when he reduced the deficit with a fourth penalty (17-12).
Again the All Blacks bounced back, but this time they managed to turn defence into attack after Patrick Lmabie’s clearance kick was charged down in the 54th minute. Barrett out-sprinted the retreating defence and secured the touchline for yet another unconverted try (22-`12).
That try essentially turned out to be the game changer, as the Boks looked too dead and buried trying to stem the waves of attacks.
Steyn struck a fifth penalty but that was greeted with another Perenara try and this time Barrett goaled on the hour mark (29-15).
In the final 10 minutes the All Blacks threatened to run out a 50-point account as first Barrett and then substitute hooker Codie Taylor scored and both efforts were converted for a 43-15 lead.
Four minutes from the end, the 50 point mark was realised when fullback Ben Smith scored the final try of the match and Lima Sopoaga landed his second conversion to bring up the half century (50-15).
And when everyone thought the demolition was complete, substitute Liam Squire grabbed the ninth try and Sopoaga goaled splendidly from touch for an eventual 57-15 scoreline.
Scorers: South Africa 15 (9): Penalties: Morne Steyn (5).
New Zealand 57 (12) : Tries: Israel Dagg (2), TJ Perenara (2), Beauden Barrett (2), Codie Taylor, Ben Smith, Liam Squire. Conversions: Barrett (3), Lima Sopoaga (3) . – African News Agency (ANA)