All black retain crown
New Zealand battle to overcome South Africa 19-11

Sunday Tribune - Sunday, 10 August 2003

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DUNEDIN - New Zealand retained the Tri-Nations championship yesterday with a hard-fought 19-11 win over South Africa at Carisbrook.

In near freezing conditions, South Africa, beaten by more than 50 points in Pretoria, upset New Zealand's attacking patterns with some aggressive defence.

Both teams scored a try apiece with Carlos Spencer's goal kicking proving the difference.

New Zealand captain Reuben Thorne said the All Blacks had expected a tough match.

"We knew they would be really tough and they were," he said. "They played really well. For the first half we played most of our rugby down our end."

His opposite number Corne Krige said he was disappointed with the loss but happy the game plan of putting pressure on the All Black backline had worked.

"I can't be proud of a loss, but the game plan was working," Krige said. "It's just a shame we couldn't finish it off. But we'll keep our heads up and look forward to the World Cup now."

The All Blacks opened the scoring when Joe Rokocoko beat team mate Doug Howlett and the South African defence to an Aaron Mauger grubber kick. It was Rokocoko's 11th try in six tests.

The South Africans replied nine minutes later with a great try by prop Richard Bands, his first in tests.

He gathered a loose ball on the All Black 10-metre mark and set off with some surprising pace. On the way to the try he swatted Spencer aside and then Mauger as he went over.

After Spencer had increased New Zealand's lead with a 16th minute penalty, South Africa put together 13 phases from the kickoff and were rewarded with a Koen penalty to make it 10-8.

Spencer and Koen traded penalties, Spencer's the result of a high and late tackle from South African lock Ceo Cronje.

Koen missed a kickable penalty in the last minute of the half, which had it been successful, would have given the Springboks a halftime lead.

As it was the All Blacks held on to go to the break 13-11 up, having endured their toughest 40 minutes of rugby since the 15-13 loss to England in June. South Africa dominated the territory and possession stakes.

After a furious second half beginning by the All Blacks, when Tana Umaga and Rokocoko went close, the only reward was a 48th minute penalty to Spencer, which he added to 10 minutes later to give New Zealand an eight-point lead.

From then the All Blacks looked like the only team likely to score, but found the South African defence resolute.

Their best chance came with two minutes remaining when a Spencer break released big lock Ali Williams but his run was interrupted by the defence.- Reuters