All Blacks thrash Springboks 38 - 27 to claim Second Rugby Championship

Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks breaks clear to score. Getty Images
NEW Zealand left no doubt, if there was any, as to its status as the best team in the world, continually coming back against a pumped-up South Africa to win 38-27 and clinch a second straight Rugby Championship title.

The top-ranked and world champion All Blacks took their recent dominance a significant step further by winning at Ellis Park for the first time in 16 years and scoring five tries in the intimidating cauldron against a No. 2-ranked Springboks team that probably played as well as it could - and scored four tries of its own.

New Zealand's fourth try and title-winning blow came in the 61st minute when replacement flyhalf Beauden Barrett sliced through, and outstanding No. 8 Kieran Read scored the fifth two minutes later to completely shatter the desperate Boks.

Mighty New Zealand holds every major title and enhanced its reputation even further by taking everything a desperate South Africa team could muster and stay standing - and still come back for a sixth win from six in the championship.

Captain Jean de Villiers had scored South Africa's bonus-point fourth try in the 58th and for 120 seconds the home team sensed the possibility of stealing the title with the bonus point it needed. The Boks had to then win by more than seven for an against-the-odds turnaround.

Barrett killed that dream straight away, earning the bonus point the All Blacks needed to win the competition no matter the result. But Read, with a rampaging break down the left flank, added another try for good measure with South Africa's weary players fading, the hammer blow that left no doubt as to the sport's current leaders.

Overall, rugby's fiercest rivals shared nine tries at the venue where their near 100-year-old rivalry often plays out in spine-tingling fashion, and in the end New Zealand held on to the southern hemisphere title and significantly beat the Boks at Ellis for the first time since 1997.

Much earlier, Ben Smith cut inside a host of South African defenders for the first try in the 12th minute and New Zealand's first lead. It was the winger's eighth try, breaking the single-season record.

Opposite number Bryan Habana replied with two scores in two minutes to become the leading try-scorer in the competition's history, the records almost a sideshow to the immense overall contest that South Africa suddenly led.

Flanker Liam Messam then scored two tries for the All Blacks, the second well after the halftime hooter in a brilliant display of the cleverness and creativity of the world champion's game, with the All Blacks ahead 21-15 at halftime.

Winger Willie le Roux and captain De Villiers pushed the 60,000 people at a packed and sizzling Ellis toward ecstasy with South Africa's two second-half tries, before Barrett and Read kept the All Blacks - sternly challenged but ultimately unmoved - without question at the top of world rugby.

AP
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