Late Lambie penalty seals South Africa win over New Zealand
Rookie Handre Pollard scored two tries, three conversions and a penalty at Ellis Park
Malakai Fekitoa of the All Blacks breaks clear to score against South Africa at Ellis Park. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Patrick Lambie’s late long-range penalty consigned New Zealand to just their second defeat in 38 Test matches as South Africa edged to a 27-25 Rugby Championship victory at Ellis Park.
New Zealand had expected Dane Coles’s first Test try that overturned an 11-point deficit to tie up victory in Johannesburg but replacement Lambie posted the last-gasp penalty winner to stop the All Blacks extending their unbeaten run in the Rugby Championship to 18 matches.
South Africa led for the majority of the clash thanks to two tries from Handre Pollard and another score from Francois Hougaard. The All Blacks hit back to lead 25-24 in the final quarter, however, with Ben Smith and Coles adding to Malakai Fekitoa’s earlier score.
South Africa always had time to respond and despite missing a snap drop-goal effort, Lambie was on target with the crucial penalty.
New Zealand went into their closing Rugby Championship clash with their 13th title already secured, but Steve Hansen’s men were dead-set on extending their impressive record of losing just once since World Cup 2011. Captain Richie McCaw was unable to toast his record 134th All Blacks bow with victory, the stalwart flanker breaking Colin Meads’s 43-year-old appearance tally.
Instead, South Africa were able to secure their first victory over the All Blacks under boss Heyneke Meyer in what will be seen as a clear statement of intent with World Cup 2015 hurtling into view.
Beauden Barrett’s penalty handed New Zealand an early 3-0 lead, but South Africa hit back in style. Scrumhalf Hougaard romped home for the game’s opening try, with Pollard converting to hand the hosts a 7-3 advantage.
Barrett doubled his side’s tally with his second penalty to cut South Africa’s deficit to one point, but the Boks broke away again, this time with Pollard powering home for an impressive solo score, before converting his try.
Malakai Fekitoa hit back for the stubborn All Blacks as the visitors battled to stay in touch. Wing Julian Savea’s astute chip eased pressure on New Zealand after the Springboks pack had stolen a scrum nudge. Fekitoa then scythed a fine midfield line to outfox the home defence and cross under the posts.
Barrett added the conversion to leave New Zealand trailing by just a point for the second time in the match.
Just as the All Blacks looked to turn the tables, however, Pollard claimed his second try of the match, converting again, to put the Springboks 21-13 to the good at the break.
Pollard struck a penalty after the turnaround to edge South Africa further ahead at 24-13 as the game drew into the final quarter.
By this time skipper McCaw was rejecting penalty shots at goal, well aware of the 11-point deficit. The All Blacks wasted one fine chance when Conrad Smith offloaded straight into enemy arms following a fine line break. The wily centre was not about to make the same mistake twice, however, feeding namesake Ben Smith after another smart break for New Zealand’s second try of the match.
Barrett posted the conversion to leave the All Blacks trailing 24-20 with 14 minutes to play. Frontrower Coles then plundered his first Test try to make it 25-24 and fire the All Blacks ahead for the first time since Barrett’s eighth-minute opening penalty.
The visitors were unable to add the conversion and that miss proved telling. The Springboks kept their cool, and eventually forced the penalty that Lambie dispatched to secure a memorable triumph.