Jordie Barrett’s pressure penalty kick less than three minutes from the end gave the All Blacks a 19-17 win over the Springboks in their historic 100th Test in Townsville.
The matchwinning play came from All Blacks’ 22-year-old replacement centre Quinn Tupaea who forced a penalty – the 26th of the game – at a ruck wide on the left and 30m out from the Boks’ line. Barrett’s kick – his fifth from five – was the seventh time the lead had changed.
It took New Zealand’s record to 60 wins with four draws from the 100 matches.
“That match certainly did justice to the history of the fixture,” said All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens. “That had everything – drama, intensity and physicality by the bucketful. The All Blacks managed to squeaked one there.”
Former Wallabies player Morgan Turinui added: “It wasn’t pretty, they weren’t at their best, the All Blacks. The Springboks turned up, they were courageous, led by the inspirational skipper Siya Kolisi and just came up short ”
The game had a frantic start – the only two tries of the game coming inside six minutes – and a frantic finish with a titantic struggle for territory in between.
“We’re never happy when we lose,” said Springboks captain Siya Kolisi. “We come from a very proud country. They expect results from us and as a team that’s what we expect from each other as well. But I’m glad of the way we stood up today. It was a tough past two weeks.”
All Blacks captain Ardie Savea was counting his blessings: “We knew this game was gonna come down to the wire and it was tit for tat. Just relieved actually.”
“They put us under a lot of pressure with their box kicks and their chase line and we just had to adapt. It wasa bit messy out there but that’s Test match footy.”
The Springboks had their egos rocked by consecutive losses to the Wallabies, and their fans would have felt a shiver of dread when they were cut apart within two minutes of kickoff.
After a frantic start by both teams, All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor ran sideways before finding a crack in the line, setting sail from deep in half into clear air. Winger Will Jordan motored up alongside and took over, burning away to the tryline.
The All Blacks starting with a bang ????
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) September 25, 2021
But the Boks were relieved to be back in the contest within three minutes. Faf de Klerk’s towering kick swirled in the Townsville sky and was misjudged horrible by George Bridge, as Boks speedster Sbu Nkosi made his pay by grabbing the loose ball and crossing for the try.
On a plate for Nkosi ???? What a start to this match.
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) September 25, 2021
Handre Pollard missed the conversion but then kicked two penalties as the Boks moved to an 11-7 lead.
They were showing more fire and cohesion in their pack than in their 30-17 loss to Australia a week ago. Captain Kolisi was having his best game of the Rugby Championship, leading from the front as if the recent losses were a personal affront.
“They’re going together as a a pack instead of individuals,” said Mehrtens on the Stan coverage, comparing them to a rowing eight.
But the All Blacks’ went into the break a man up and leading 13-11 after Nkosi attempted to bring in an intercept with five minutes left in the half and ended up with 10 minutes in the sin bin for deliberate knock on.
Captain Ardie Savea opted against putting the Boks to the sword, with Barrett’s kick ending the scoring for the half.
Although behind, it was an encouraging first half by the Boks.
“Finally we’re seeing the Springboks, bringing some style in this tournament,” said former All Black Sonny Bill Williams.
‘Style’ means different things to the two teams, and the second half saw the Boks stamp theirs on the game in an arm wrestle dominated by technical penalties gleefully whistled by the incessently chatting English referee Luke Pearce.
A penalty each on the hour saw the Boks retake, then concede the lead, and another shrill blast from Pearce’s overworked whistle gave Pollard the opportunity to send over another penalty – the sixth time the lead changed in the contest.
With three minutes left the tiring Boks conceded the crucial penalty, and came away as losers for a third game running.
“I thought we did enough to win this from an effort perspective and the players were excellent tonight, but perhaps we just lacked the composure when it mattered in that last minute or two,” said Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.
“We won the series against the British & Irish Lions with a kick past 80 minutes and against Australia two weeks ago and again tonight, lost with a penalty very late in the game. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes not, that is the nature of sport.”
Kolisi said they had the belief that they could beat New Zealand, and said that he feels the Boks’ next victory is not far off. The team face each other again next weekend.
“We had a plan we believed will do that and it worked,” said Kolisi.
“We wanted to stay in the Rugby Championship and needed to improve after the last two weeks. We wanted to do what we know and do it properly, and we did that well. It was what we expected from the All Blacks, but we coped with it.
“I can’t fault my teammates or coaches and thought we were right in there. Not much went wrong tonight.
“It does hurt to lose three in a row. Tomorrow we will analyse what went wrong, but results will come.”
Nienaber said the players did their best in the defeats against Australia and the fault was with the coaches. He felt that was addressed against the All Blacks.
“This time around we were on song, we had a good week, and the match could have gone our way. I felt we did enough to win,” he said, adding that the players showed they had the belief that they could win.
“There was no one in the squad who did not believe we could beat them and that we could create opportunities to give us the win. We knew it was a going to be a grind and that it was going to be close.
“We were in it at the end and we put ourselves in a position to win the game.
“I am hurting yes, as we could have pulled it off. We believed that those kicks were effective, and all created one on one situations, which is something we wanted to achieve.
“We had opportunities, they had opportunities. A call here, a bounce of the ball there, that was how close it was.”