Penalties Not Enough As Two-Try Kiwis Progress
Will we get the ‘controversy’ out of the way first? New Zealand won by two points and Dan Carter was allowed to retake a conversion from a wide position, having missed his first attempt. Kaino touched down for the opening try of the game, Carter was left with a difficult angle to take the conversion. He was preparing to take it, step backed, and Bryan Habana charged at him. Dan Carter then stepped forward to take the kick. It went wide but he was allowed to retake it. Here is the law from World Rugby on charging a conversion.
(A) ‘All players of the opposing team must retire to their goal line and must not overstep that line until the kicker begins the approach to kick or starts to kick. When the kicker does this, they may charge or jump to prevent a goal but must not be physically supported by other players in these actions.’
The relevant sanction for this:
‘If the kick is unsuccessful, the kicker may take another kick and the opposing team is not allowed to charge’.
So because Habana had begun his charge before Carter had began approaching the ball to kick, he was allowed to retake it. Call was spot on, nothing controversial about it.
There was another incident later in the game which the Springboks could feel more aggrieved about. In the 63rd minute, South Africa were awarded a kickable penalty. However, Jerome Garces went to the TMO. He reversed the penalty after seeing a neck roll from Victor Matfield. On review, Matfield seemed to have his arm on his opponents shoulder more than his neck when the actual movement occurred. This wasn’t clear-cut either way, and Joe Moody was called out for the same thing earlier in the game, with a New Zealand penalty being reversed, so maybe it was intended consistency by the referee. South Africa may feel hard done by, with a penalty in a kickable position when the gap was 5 points.
Regardless of whether or not the penalty should have been reversed, the result was a fair reflection of the game. South Africa showed they had a solid plan A, the All Blacks showed they could utilize more than one game plan to get them the win. The Springboks marginally outplayed the All Blacks in the first-half. They committed numbers to the breakdown and forced turnovers. Handre Pollard was as good from the tee as he would have to be today, he slotted over four first half penalties. South Africa forced New Zealand to kick away possession, they were happy to let the no.1 ranked side in the world have the ball in their half, but they didn’t let the ball out wide. The world champions did manage to unlock the Springboks defence once, Jerome Kaino touching down 6 minutes in. This clinical nature would ultimately decide the game. But South Africa were worth their 12-7 lead at half-time.
They may have been able to neutralize the New Zealand attack for large parts of the game, but when it came to creating their own opportunities, South Africa were poor. They failed to create any clear try scoring chances, and had only a few quick breaks which led to nothing. South Africa were playing like a team 15 points up at the start of the second-half, who just needed to keep it tight and hold the New Zealand attack up. Unfortunately for them, they were only five points up. New Zealand created further chances, with Barrett getting in for a try soon after coming on.
Had the All Blacks been better disciplined the winning margin would have been wider. The back row was particularly at fault. Kieren Read and Richie McCaw got caught more than they usually do, and Jerome Kaino spent ten minutes in the bin at a crucial period. The sin binning that ended up being more costly was Bryan Habana’s for a deliberate knock on. This took a lot of bite out of an already poor South African attack, and at this stage New Zealand were five points to the good.
The wet conditions towards the end destroyed South Africa’s chances. Neither side played particularly good rugby in the last ten minutes, but New Zealand just had to keep the ball. South Africa had played most of the game in their own half and it was too late to change that now. You can’t spent 65-minutes defending against the best team in the world and expect to be allowed to attack effectively all of a sudden. New Zealand adjusted their game at halftime and limited South Africa to two second-half penalties, they did enough to win the game.
There was a great show of respect by both teams at the end of the game, which is exactly what this sport is about. No records were broken this time, but Habana and Savea will have one more chance. South Africa will contest the Bronze Final against the loser of the second semi-final. New Zealand were deserved winners, Dan Carter landing only his second World Cup drop goal sums up how they did what they had to do. They will be favourites against either Australia or Argentina next week, and will have high hopes of winning their 3rd World Cup, and their first outside of their own country.
Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
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