All Blacks book fourth final

Date published: October 24 2015

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Defending champions New Zealand booked their place in the Rugby World Cup Final thanks to a 20-18 win over South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

The All Blacks are still on track to become the first team to defend the world title as they will now face the winners of Sunday's second semi-final between Argentina and Australia.

In a nail-biting encounter, the two-time champions and tournament favourites outscored their fiercest rivals two tries to none to advance to their first RWC Final in the northern hemisphere. But it didn't come easily.

South Africa led 12-7 at the interval thanks to four penalties from the boot of Handré Pollard while Jerome Kaino scored the only try of the first half for New Zealand.

The All Blacks ruled both the territory and possession stats in the first 40 minutes but the Springboks held the edge in the physical arm wrestle, especially at the breakdown while also enjoying the upper hand at the rare scrums.

It was the classic clash of styles we had all expected as New Zealand constantly probed with ball in hand while the Boks turned defence into attack.

The Springbok lineout was under pressure however and four stolen lineouts over the course of the game robbed them of vital momentum.

The half-time break also signaled a change in conditions as steady rain began to fall, which should have worked in South Africa's favour, but a Dan Carter drop goal and a Beauden Barrett try put New Zealand back in front for good.

South Africa made an excellent start with Jesse Kriel given a chance to stretch his legs in the opening minutes. And the Boks were first on the scoreboard when Pollard split the uprights after Kieran Read came in from the side of a maul. 

The All Blacks' response was typically clinical as they scored the opening try with their first attack. Richie McCaw found Kaino out wide on the overlap and the flanker shrugged off the challenge of Lood de Jager to cross in the corner. Dan Carter was crucially given a second chance at the conversion after Bryan Habana started his run too soon and the Kiwi fly-half coolly made it 7-3.

Pollard landed his second penalty to cut the gap to a single point after McCaw jumped the gun at a lineout and was penalised for offside around the ten-minute mark. 

The All Blacks were clearly targeting Willie le Roux under the high ball but the Bok full-back was up to the early tests while Nehe Milner-Skudder was the target of a few kicks by the Boks. Habana beat the young New Zealander in the air before Ma'a Nonu was caught offside as he chased back, which allowed Pollard to give South Africa the lead (9-7) at the end of the first quarter.

It took 25 minutes for the first scrum as the South African defence was made to do a lot of work by New Zealand's phase play. The men in black were rewarded for their pressure as Schalk Burger was pinged for a no-arms tackle but Carter's shot at goal bounced off the upright. 

With half-time looming large, Kaino was sent to the sin bin for a silly kick of a loose ball from an offside position. Pollard made no mistake and stretched to the lead to five points as the teams headed for the changing rooms.

There was a slight change of script early in the second stanza as Carter slotted a cheeky drop goal, meaning that when Kaino returned from the bin the gap was the same three points as when he saw yellow. 

The game turned on its head when first New Zealand's scrum shoved the Boks and then Carter ripped the ball from Burger's hands. A few phases later, Nonu's pass wide found Barrett (on for Milner-Skudder) out wide for a well-taken try. 

The Boks suffered a double whammy as Habana saw yellow for knocking the ball from Aaron Smith's hands in the build-up and Carter slotted the conversion to make it 17-12. 

A handful of changes to the respective front rows restored South Africa's scrum dominance as Charlie Faumuina conceded three points to Pollard for dropping his bind but Carter replied almost immediately when Eben Etzebeth went off his feet.

Habana returned with New Zealand leading 20-15 as the game entered it's final quarter with Sonny Bill Williams proving a danger with every touch of the ball and the Boks looking dead on their feet. 

Read was again penalised for coming in from the side of a maul – his fourth penalty – and Pat Lambie hit the mark from long range to reduce the gap to two points and set up a grandstand finish. 

Crucially, Damian de Allende lost the ball in contact with South Africa pressing hard and yet another stolen lineout gave New Zealand field position in the dying minutes. 

With the rain driving down, the Boks tried to run their way out of their 22, but to no avail.

Man of the match: A tough call to make considering he was shown a yellow card, but Jerome Kaino was New Zealand's best player, scoring a try, carrying like a monster and even making a lineout steal. Mentions too for Ben Smith and Sam Whitelock.

Moment of the match: The writing was on the wall when Barrett scored New Zealand's second try. The Boks could have cleared quickly, but instead saw the ball ripped from Schalk Burger's hands as the tried to force a better position.

Villain of the match: Nothing nasty enough to mention.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Pens: Pollard 5, Lambie
Yellow card: Habana

For New Zealand:
Tries: Kaino, Barrett
Cons: Carter 2
Pen: Carter
Drop: Carter
Yellow card: Kaino

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Venue: Twickenham, London
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Johnny Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

By Ross Hastie at Twickenham

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