Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Thrilling ABs claim title

All Blacks 38
Springboks 27

The All Blacks have defended their Rugby Championship title with a victory over the Springboks at Ellis Park this morning in a pulsating test which featured several moments of controversy.

The result means the All Blacks have yet to be beaten in the Championship's two year history. In what is likely to be their toughest test of the year, they stood up to the physicality of the Boks and in the end had too much skill and fitness for the home side.

Skipper Richie McCaw, back from his knee injury suffered four weeks ago, played the full 80 minutes with fellow loose forwards Kieran Read and Liam Messam, who scored two tries, also playing starring roles.

One of the biggest talking points could be the mistake by All Blacks manager Darren Shand, who mistakenly put Keven Mealamu's name on the team sheet instead of Dane Coles', the hooker taking the field in the second half when replacing Andrew Hore.

A match official took the field to alert referee Nigel Owens of the discrepancy, with Shand telling Owens it was merely a "complete typo''.

In a thrilling test in front of a crowd of almost 64,000, the lead changed hands several times, with the Boks, who needed to score a four-try bonus point and deny the visitors anything in order to win the Championship, holding a 15-7 lead in the first half.

In the end it was replacement first-five Beauden Barrett who had the honour of sealing the competition win with his individual try, one of five by the All Blacks, with 20 minutes remaining.

The All Blacks showed courage and determination in the hostile arena, with the Boks enjoying periods of dominance. The home side scored four tries, including a double in the first quarter by Bryan Habana. It is the first time since 2010 that the All Blacks have conceded four tries in a test. They also had to cope with the sinbinnings of Messam and replacement prop Ben Franks in the second half.

Messam saw yellow for a ruck infringement, Franks for a swinging arm to prop Connie Oosthuizen's jaw.

However, despite the disadvantage, the All Blacks refused to concede anything.

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``That's a hell of a match to win. I haven't seen the Springboks play a match like that for a long time,'' McCaw said.

Habana's double gave the Boks the advantage after Ben Smith went through or past three defenders to score the All Blacks' first try.

However, Messam struck back with the help of a Brodie Retallick shove over the line and the loose forward scored a superb second after the halftime hooter which got the All Blacks back to a 21-15 lead.

A Willie le Roux try gave the Boks the lead again before Barrett, who replaced an injured Aaron Cruden, kicked a penalty as the lead continued to seesaw.

Barrett was at fault for Jean de Villiers' try, the Boks skipper running through him and Ma'a Nonu, but the Taranaki first-five struck back with a brilliant individual effort, which he converted, and then made an incredible run to get back and tackle Le Roux after an intercept.

It is the first time since 1997 that the All Blacks have won at Ellis Park.

All Blacks (Liam Messam 2, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read tries; Aaron Smith 3 cons, Beauden Barrett pen, 2 cons)

Springboks (Bryan Habana 2, Willie le Roux, Jean de Villiers tries; Morne Steyn pen, 2 cons)

Halftime: 21-15

Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks breaks clear to score the bonus point winning fourth try during the Rugby Championship match. Photo / Getty Images.
Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks breaks clear to score the bonus point winning fourth try during the Rugby Championship match. Photo / Getty Images.

- APNZ

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