Rugby Championship: New Zealand beat South Africa for title

Liam Massam scores New Zealand's third try.
Liam Massam

New Zealand secured the Rugby Championship with a pulsating 38-27 win over South Africa at Ellis Park.

After Ben Smith's try put the All Blacks ahead, two Bryan Habana scores gave the Springboks hope only for two tries from Liam Messam to give the visitors a half-time lead.

Tries from Willie le Roux and Jean de Villiers put South Africa in front.

But scores from Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read earned a sixth win from six games for the All Blacks.

South Africa went into the game needing a bonus point victory by more than seven points to claim the trophy.

But Kiwi coach Steve Hansen's team never looked interested in winning the title with damage limitation, producing a stylish display to win the tournament for the eighth time in 11 years, including its previous incarnation as the Tri-Nations before Argentina joined last year.

South Africa had to be content with second place in the group, while Australia secured third spot after a thumping 54-17 victory of fourth-placed Argentina.

Barrett's try - New Zealand's fourth - guaranteed a bonus point and confirmed the trophy with 20 minutes left.

"We had the belief to hit back when the momentum was against us," said New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.

"As an All Black I relish these occasions and winning at this great stadium makes me so proud. We gave everything out there this evening."

Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said: "To win rugby matches you have to attack and defend and our defence was not up to scratch in this match.

"Let us give credit to New Zealand - they deserved to win the match and the Championship after a great advertisement for rugby."

Morne Steyn kicked an early penalty but the All Blacks moved ahead when a fine offload from Read was followed by Smith beating two defenders to score.

But South Africa responded when Duane Vermeulen made space with a surging run and sent Habana over in the 18th minute.

Two minutes later a fine one-handed pass from Francois Louw put Habana into space and the winger chipped over Smith and gathered before touching down in the corner.

Habana limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury two minutes later and the hosts failed to build on their 15-7 advantage.

Heavy pressure from New Zealand resulted in Messam, assisted by Brodie Retallick, bundling over from about a yard.

And when South Africa attempted to run the ball out in first-half added time, Read turned the ball over and a slick passing move to the left ended with Messam stepping in to score his second try.

Six minutes after the interval Messam was sent to the sin bin and within seconds the hosts took a penalty quickly and fed the ball right for Le Roux to cross, with Steyn's conversion making it 22-21.

With 14 men, Ma'a Nonu denied a decisive try and after Barrett's penalty restored New Zealand's advantage, De Villiers barged through three tackles to score.

The game swung again within two minutes when Barrett broke through to score a fourth try and end South Africa's chances of winning the trophy.

New Zealand's Ben Franks was shown a yellow card but, even with a man down, the outstanding Read was sent over in the corner by Julian Savea.

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