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Rugby World Cup 2019: Five-minute blitz gets All Blacks home over Springboks

New Zealand’s George Bridge is tackled during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21, 2019.

New Zealand’s George Bridge is tackled during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Adam Pretty

France and Australia both survived huge scares on Saturday as the Rugby World Cup roared into life.

Yokohama Defending champions New Zealand burnished their credentials as favourites for the Rugby World Cup with a hard-fought 23-13 win against top contenders South Africa in a blockbuster match in Yokohama on Saturday.

The impressive All Blacks cut the Springboks to ribbons during a five-minute period of dominance in the first half that earned them two converted tries, and then saw off a determined second-half fightback to register the vital Pool B win.

Before nearly 64,000 fans in Yokohama's International Stadium, the All Blacks set the game alight with the sensational scoring spree which was against the early run of play.

Until then the Springboks had enjoyed a huge territorial advantage but were unable to cross the line and had to rely on an early Handre Pollard penalty for their only points in the first half.

In a frantically paced second half they came within one try of regaining the lead before late penalties made the game safe for New Zealand.

For the fourth time in as many matches at this World Cup, the team that scored first finished second.

Perhaps it was nerves, but play was marred by many handling errors from both sides early in the contest.

South Africa's reputed staunch defence was exposed by 26 missed tackles in the first half as the All Blacks' pace proved too much.

After Springboks backrower Duane Vermeulen was given the honour in his 50th Test to lead the teams on to the field, Pollard quickly had the South Africans on the board with a handy penalty.

With the deft kicking of Faf de Klerk backed by the muscle of the South African pack, the All Blacks were pinned deep in their own half for most of the first quarter until a Richie Mo'unga breakout brought them into the game for the first time.

Although South Africa saved that try, Mo'unga landed the penalty to level the scores and almost immediately set up the next scoring move, as a chip kick to right wing Sevu Reece launched a 60-metre move that finished with a try to left wing George Bridge.

Influential centre Anton Lienert-Brown sparked New Zealand's next long-range counter-attack which saw lock Scott Barrett loom up in support for the try.

It took South Africa until the eighth minute of the second half to score their first try when Pieter-Steph du Toit brushed aside Aaron Smith to score near the posts.

Pollard narrowed the gap further with a 40-metre drop goal to have the South Africans a try away from taking the lead.

But late penalties by Mo'unga and man-of-the-match Beauden Barrett gave the All Blacks a 10-point safety net.

France, Australia get out of jail

France and Australia both survived huge scares on Saturday as the Rugby World Cup roared into life.

A last-ditch penalty miss by Argentina's Emiliano Boffelli spared France's blushes as they scraped home 23-21, after Australia recovered from nine points down to beat a formidable Fiji 39-21.

Kieran Read's All Blacks are chasing an unprecedented third straight world title, but come up against a Springboks team in the ascendancy under coach Rassie Erasmus.

After a tense start in Tokyo, France clicked and they showed slick hands and brilliant running as Gael Fickou went over on the right and Antoine Dupont dotted down four minutes later.

The flawless boot of Romain Ntamack pushed Les Bleus out to a 20-3 lead at the break but Argentina came storming back with two near-identical catch-and-drive tries to Guido Petti Pagadizaval and Julian Montoya.

Benjamin Urdapilleta slotted two penalties to give Argentina a 21-20 lead but Camille Lopez's cool drop goal put France back in front, and it was the unfortunate Boffelli who skewed his penalty narrowly wide.

'Back to basics'

Earlier in Sapporo, Fiji put in some thunderous hits and led 21-12 early in the second half before replacement scrum-half Will Genia inspired Australia's recovery and bonus-point win.

Tolu Latu crashed over twice, and Samu Serevi and Marika Koroibete also crossed in the second half following scores by Michael Hooper and Reece Hodge in a helter-skelter first period.

"They're such a dangerous team, we knew that very well," said Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. "It's what we expected (but) we probably didn't expect to be so far behind.

"We made a few errors that let them into it but we recomposed ourselves, went back to basics and were able to get it done."

The day's most anticipated match will come when the All Blacks rumble into action against their fiercest rivals, a Springboks side which held them 16-16 when they last met in July.

Questions have been raised about the All Blacks, now without their long-time world number one ranking, and especially against South Africa after a total of just five points separated the teams in their last four games.

Both sides will also be keenly aware that no team has lost in the pool stages and gone on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

South Africa, led by their first black World Cup captain, Siya Kolisi, will play in shirts bearing an image of Chester Williams, the only black member of the Springboks' 1995 World Cup-winning team who died this month at 49.

"From the opening match, the most important thing for us is clinching victory, the World Cup itself, so we're confident," Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa told AFP.

"It means a lot. A win for South Africa here in Japan is a victory for the whole of the country, especially in the project of uniting our people."

Also on Saturday, tournament organisers warned teams about possible disruption from an approaching typhoon and closed two fanzones in southwestern Japan as a precaution.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 11:21:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/rugby-world-cup-2019-five-minute-blitz-gets-all-blacks-home-over-springboks/article29476981.ece

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