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New Zealand seal Rugby Championship title despite South Africa win

New Zealand seal Rugby Championship title despite South Africa win

Will Jordan All Blacks

New Zealand sealed Rugby Championship glory thanks to a 40-14 victory over Australia, with South Africa unable to match the All Blacks’ points difference in their 38-21 win against Argentina. 

The All Blacks put in an impressively dominant display to see off the Wallabies at Eden Park, extending their winning record against Australia at the Auckland venue to 23 consecutive victories since 1986.

Will Jordan crossed the whitewash before New Zealand were awarded a penalty try in the first half.

Further scores from Sam Whitelock and Codie Taylor after the break put the All Blacks into an unassailable 32-0 lead midway through the second period.

Folau Fainga’a got the Wallabies onto the scoresheet, but any hopes of an incredible comeback were quickly dashed when Samisoni Taukei’aho dived over to seal All Black glory.

They were made to wait to see if their 26-point victory would be enough to lift the Rugby Championship title with South Africa needing to win by 39 points against Argentina in Durban.

At one point it looked as if they might manage it, racing into a 17-0 lead, but tries either side of half-time from Gonzalo Bertranou and Juan Martin Gonzalez saw that lead slashed to just three points.

That sprung the Springboks into action, and with the introduction of the bomb squad they claimed two penalty tries before a late Kurt-Lee Arendse score sealed victory on the day.

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However, to the relief of Ian Foster and his New Zealand squad, it was not enough to prevent them lifting an eighth title in ten years.

FEARLESS ALL BLACKS CLAIM TITLE 

The last 12 months have been far from ideal for New Zealand, with pressure piled onto Ian Foster after several high-profile losses.

But after last week’s controversial finish in Melbourne, the All Blacks had a chance to retain their Rugby Championship title at Eden Park and duly took it.

It was a victory underpinned by the same steely ruthlessness we grew accustomed to seeing in New Zealand’s World Cup-winning sides but had gone missing in recent times along with the All Blacks’ aura of invincibility.

Beauden Barrett and Ian Foster

Foster and his side knew they had to win well to get the edge over South Africa, but Australia’s stirring comeback in Melbourne was still fresh in the memory.

From minute one they were dominant but Australia have improved considerably in a short space of time and did not lie down and make it easy for the hosts.

However, when New Zealand get going they have the ability to put in incredibly special performances.

New Zealand continued the forward dominance that brought two maul tries last week as four of their five scores came from the pack and prolific Will Jordan took his record to 21 tries in as many Test matches.

They may not be as feared as they once were, but by bouncing back and claiming the title they have proven that you underestimate them at your peril.

WALLABIES CONTINUE WORRYING TREND 

Australia’s form in the Rugby Championship has been inconsistent to say the least.

An excellent 41-26 win in Mendoza was backed up by a humiliating 48-17 defeat in San Juan, before a mightily impressive 25-17 win over South Africa in Adelaide suggested that loss was merely a blip.

But a resounding 24-8 defeat to the Springboks at the Allianz Stadium was not the way to back it up.

They came oh so close to a mesmerising victory over New Zealand in Melbourne before Bernard Foley was called for time-wasting and Jordie Barrett’s try at the death made it 39-37.

And from Dave Rennie’s perspective, the less said about their latest visit to Eden Park the better.

Australia’s downward turn in form is a trend that was also visible in the summer Test series defeat to England, where the Wallabies finally got the better of Eddie Jones in the first game before going down 2-1.

It is these inconsistencies that make Australia so exciting to watch, you currently do not know how they are going to perform.

But it is also the reason they sit ninth in the world rankings and lost all three of their matches of last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

The Wallabies face a very tough Autumn Nations Series this time around, playing more matches than anyone else – visiting Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in November.

SPRINGBOKS LEFT TO RUE PREVIOUS DEFEATS 

The Rugby Championship began with South Africa routinely beating New Zealand 26-10 in Mbombela and ended with the world champions never really looking like losing on the way to a 38-21 win over Argentina.

They came within 23 points of claiming only their second Rugby Championship title since it became a four-team tournament in 2012.

Frustratingly for the Springboks, those defeats in Round 2 and 3 against New Zealand and Australia proved to be very costly indeed.

But a year out from the Rugby World Cup, there will be very little concern shown by South African rugby supporters.

The Springboks still have arguably the two best front rows in the world, backed up by arguably the best second row duo and a sizeable back row, with classy backs like Makazole Mapimpi who scores tries for fun.

Ireland, France, Italy and England await in the Autumn Nations Series in November – with South Africa looking to continue their momentum and keep building.

PUMAS SHOW CREDENTIALS

Argentina could not quite manage to force victory against the Springboks last week and they suffered the same misfortune again.

There were moments of quality, namely the tries of Juan Martin Gonzalez and Matias Moroni, but in the end, despite defending valiantly, South Africa were able to run away with it after scoring late tries in a mirror image of the game the week before.

But this Argentina team are one that seem to echo the great Pumas teams of 2007 and 2015 – with both of those sides going on to reach the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Argentina

Built on a foundation of a strong front row, skilful half-backs and a nigh on perfect kicking game, the Pumas are on the up and will only continue to get better under Michael Cheika.

This Autumn Nations Series will be a big challenge for the Pumas, who face World Cup group opponents England, Wales and Scotland, but this summer they have proven they can beat anybody – making those fixtures fascinating.

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