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New Zealand rout South Africa to clinch Rugby Championship crown


Ben Smith helped New Zealand to a comfortable win over South Africa

Ben Smith helped New Zealand to a comfortable win over South Africa

Ben Smith helped New Zealand to a comfortable win over South Africa

New Zealand reclaimed the Rugby Championship title as they dominated the second half on their way to a comfortable 41-13 victory over South Africa in Christchurch.

The All Blacks made it four wins out of four as they outscored the Springboks 26-3 after the break and, when last year's tournament winners Australia then beat Argentina 36-20 in Perth, New Zealand were confirmed as champions with two games to play.

New Zealand's six tries were scored by six different players - Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock and TJ Perenara - while Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty and four conversions.

South Africa crossed first through Bryan Habana, but were on the back foot the rest of the way.

With the All Blacks winning the territorial battle early on, they were first to get on the scoreboard as Barrett's penalty made it 3-0 after nine minutes.

But South Africa looked confident when pushing forward and they would score the opening try as a fine pass from Warren Whiteley set up Habana for his 66th Test try, which Elton Jantjies converted for a 7-3 lead.

The response from New Zealand was almost instant as they capitalised on a handling error from Jantjies and Dagg crossed the line.

The conversion attempt went wide to keep the gap at one point, but the All Blacks soon gave themselves breathing space.

Piling pressure on South Africa, they forced a scrum on the 22-yard line and the ball was quickly worked out wide for Julian Savea to cross in the corner, and this time Barrett's conversion was good.

Jantjies' penalty cut the deficit to make it 15-10 at the break.

The second half got off to a bad start for South Africa when captain Adriaan Strauss was forced off with injury, and New Zealand quickly piled on the misery.

Soon after Strauss' exit, New Zealand launched a swift counter-attack, capped when Ben Smith crossed easily and planted the ball down behind the posts for Barrett to convert easily.

Jantjies kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit, but again the All Blacks' response was swift and decisive.

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Ben Smith made up rapid ground with a quick spurt up the middle, and a kind roll of the ball allowed Aaron Smith to break forward and set up Ardie Savea to cross on his starting debut, with the try awarded despite what looked a blatant block in the build-up.

It soon got worse as Dane Coles found Whitelock in acres of space on the wing and he crossed easily in the corner, although Barrett missed the conversion to leave the score at 34-13.

New Zealand thought they had scored again two minutes later after some brilliant play from Dagg and Matt Todd, but Perenara could not quite ground the ball in time.

But it only delayed the inevitable as moments later Perenara scooped up the ball from the back of the scrum and raced over, with Barrett's kick giving New Zealand a 28-point lead.

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