The propensity for probable Irish opponents in a World Cup quarter-final to find form continues unabated, as New Zealand and South Africa served up a classic Rugby Championship clash in Wellington.
Both of these sides have been drawn in Pool B of the World Cup in Japan, and therefore one of them will more than likely face Ireland if all goes to plan for us in Pool A.
South Africa scored 36 points and five tries their record score against the All Blacks in New Zealand. In spite of it all, they should have lost: New Zealand trailed by two points as they sat on the 'Boks try line, yet continued to try and force a try and refused to toss the ball backward and kick a straightforward drop-goal. Damian McKenzie loitered in the pocket, but New Zealand refused to win the game.
New Zealand raced into a 12-0 lead in characteristically ominous fashion, but South Africa hauled their way back into the game: they ran in three straight tries to lead by 21-12 just past the half-hour mark. The champions got a try back before the break, but a Pollard penalty for the 'Boks gave them a 24-17 lead at half-time.
Remarkably, it was the 'Boks who started the best in the second half, Cheslin Kolbe intercepting Linert-Browne's errant pass to cross minutes into the second period. Rieko Ioane replied for the ABs ten minutes later, only for South Africa to reply with their fifth try of the night just before the hour mark.
At that point, the 'Boks declared. New Zealand spent the final quarter of the game battering the South Africa line, and eventually crossed with Codie Taylor and, with five minutes remaining, Ardie Savea. Incredibly, Beauden Barrett then pinged the conversion off the post, to leave the champions two points behind with five minutes to go.
New Zealand continued to hammer at the line, but even with the benefit of some curious refereeing calls, they didn't score again. Curiously, the All Blacks refused to kick a drop-goal in spite of their being in an ideal position to do so.
Here's the reaction as the 'Boks stole a famous 36-34 win.
Shocking game management from Barrett and the ABs, you've gotta have a drop-goal in your locker in that scenario
— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) September 15, 2018
Absolutely brainless stuff from NZ not to go for the drop goal.
— Neil Treacy (@neil_treacy) September 15, 2018
Way too cocky in those last few phases. Delighted their arrogance went against them for once. Super win for SA. #RugbyChampionship
— Ferg Breen (@fergbreen) September 15, 2018
Every other team in the world goes for a drop goal in that situation. The All Blacks’ quality invariably bails them out but you’d have to say their arrogance cost them this time.
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) September 15, 2018
— Ger Ryan (@GerRyanBIFFO) September 15, 2018
Absolutely brilliant game between the Sprinboks and the All Blacks. Very surprised All Blacks didn’t attempt a drop goal off that last scrum. South Africa defended brilliantly. #NZLvRSA
— Mark Dunning (@DunningMark) September 15, 2018
That was woeful finishing from the All Blacks. Never once set up or positioned for the drop goal. What on earth was that. Honestly. #NZLVRSA
— Elliott Smith (@elliottnz) September 15, 2018
Why on earth didn't the all blacks just kick for the drop goal there?!
— Dale (@DaleAC93) September 15, 2018
16 phases right on the Springboks goal-line, right in front of the sticks, and you don't even set up or try for a drop goal? Flabbergasted in some ways, and unsurprised in others, given how All Blacks play. Some rubbish game management by ABs, but a great test. Congrats to Boks.
— Craig Sisterson (@craigsisterson) September 15, 2018
Pure arrogance from The All Blacks. They should have taken the drop goal and win by one. Guess they didn't trust Barett kicking today. #NZLvRSA #RugbyChampionship Ah well so rugby. Now onto the football. Come on Liverpool
— Yusuf Abdullah (@JoeJoeLFC) September 15, 2018