BUENOS AIRES - New Zealand were beaten by a converted try during extended injury time in the international under-21 rugby tournament final against South Africa in Argentina yesterday.

South African winger Frikkie Welsh scored on the left after New Zealand had withstood a barrage of forward drives and scrums close to their line for nearly seven minutes.

The clock was showing over five minutes of injury time when Welsh scored to level the scores 25-25 before fullback Johan Roets kicked the conversion for South Africa's 27-25 win.

New Zealand officials, including manager Des Smith and coach Tony Gilbert, were understood to be unhappy with the amount of injury time allowed by Welsh referee Nigel Whitehouse. They could not be contacted as the team were on their way to the airport to fly back home soon after the match.

Fulltime and then extra time ticked past as Whitehouse awarded a series of penalties and five-metre scrums close to the New Zealand line.

South Africa's advantage looked to be well over when New Zealand turned over the ball but were penalised again for not releasing in a tackle.

Only minutes earlier, the monster South African pack destroyed a New Zealand-fed scrum inside the 22m and took possession for the relentless barrage at the New Zealand defence.

South African front-rower and captain John Smit was held up centimetres short of the line, and when the Kiwis continued to hold on desperately the ball was spun out to the left where Welsh had an easy run past a short defence to score the winner.

New Zealand led throughout the match until that final act by the South Africans.

First five-eighths Daniel Barron had New Zealand leading 12-0 by the 25th minute after kicking four penalty goals.

New Zealand, with fine support play and a magnificent rucking game, were clearly on top of their bigger and heavier opponents for most of the game.

Mat Hocken brought off a superb try-saving tackle as South African winger Wylie Human was diving over in the corner, but lock Daniel Vickerman scored and Roets kicked the conversion before exchanging a penalty goal with Barron for the 15-10 halftime score in favour of the Kiwis.

The kickers exchanged a penalty each again after halftime before national sevens player Rico Gear hit the South Africans with a fine try started from nearly 50m out.

The South Africans had turned possession and attacked on the right but New Zealand No 8 and player of the day Samui Vahafolau put in a tackle, got to his feet and snatched the ball off the South Africans to allow Gear a clear run to the line.

Barron converted for his 20 points in an impeccable kicking performance to stretch New Zealand's lead to 25-13.

The work of the South African pack, having a 90kg advantage over the New Zealand eight, began to show.

Powerful centre De Wet Barry scored after his forwards had done all the spade work and Roets converted to make it 25-20 before the controversial extra time during which South Africa found the winner. - NZPA