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Rugby Union
Kiwis close in on Rugby Championship
New Zealand defeat South Africa to move closer to title as Argentina are denied maiden victory by Australia.
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2012 13:44
New Zealand are undefeated in the Rugby Championship and look set to win the first edition [GETTY]

Mistakes and silly errors in handling and decision making by both sides dominated much of New Zealand's 21-11 victory over South Africa on Saturday that left the All Blacks on the verge of winning the inaugural Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks scored two tries, from fullback Israel Dagg and replacement scrumhalf Aaron Smith, while flyhalf Aaron
Cruden slotted three penalties and a conversion to keep the world champions unbeaten in the competition.

Springboks winger Bryan Habana scored a brilliant individual try early in the second half to take his South African try-scoring record to 43, while Morne Steyn and his replacement Johan Goosen added a penalty each.

The All Blacks have attempted to play the game at extreme pace under coach Steve Hansen, with backs and forwards linking and keeping the ball alive at every opportunity.

While two back door flick passes from players being tackled set up Dagg's first-half try under the roof in Dunedin, more often than not those passes were being spilled.

The All Blacks also did not present the ball accurately at the breakdown for the second successive week, causing problems for first Piri Weepu then Smith, while they were also guilty of hanging on to it too long and incurring the wrath of referee George Clancy.

"When we go back and review (the match), there were a number of what we call avoidable penalties," Hansen said.

"We made some fairly average mistakes at times.

"(But) we did some fairly decent things as well and the opposition weren't going to go away and they came to play.

"They brought a great attitude and physicality and when you get a Springboks side like that, they're hard to play."

Pumas thwarted

Australia needed tries from Pat McCabe and Digby Ioane in the last quarter to overturn a 13-point deficit and edge Argentina 23-19 in a dramatic Rugby Championship encounter at Skilled Park on Saturday.

The Pumas looked to be on their way to a first victory in their maiden season in the southern hemisphere's international championship after tries from Tomas Leonardi and Julio Farias Cabello inside two minutes early in the second half.

The error-prone Wallabies, however, dug deep and battled back with centre McCabe finally breaching the Argentine defence on the hour mark and winger Ioane following suit after a break from scrumhalf Nick Phipps nine minutes later.

"We thought we had it, but they're a really good team"

Argentine captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe

"Credit to them, they really put us under a lot of pressure at 19-6 but there is a great deal of courage and commitment to come back... and finish so strongly," skipper Nathan Sharpe said in a pitchside interview.

"We're not happy with the close game but there was some good commitment from the guys." 

The victory put the Wallabies second in the championship standings with eight points from four matches behind runaway leaders and world champions New Zealand, who have secured 16 points after winning all four of their matches.

Argentina remained bottom of the standings with three points but, along with the 16-16 draw with the Springboks and an encouraging performance against the All Blacks, the match was further evidence they will be competitive in the championship.

"It was close, we're very disappointed," said captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

"We got a good lead but this has to be another step forward. We need to try and learn how to close these types of games. These types of teams don't stop until the last minute. That's why we are disappointed, but we must keep going forward.

"We thought we had it, but they're a really good team."

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