The Springboks fought back with three tries in the second half – after falling 17-0 down in the opening quarter hour – but two scores in the final 10 minutes by the home team, blew out the score once again to leave the tourists bitterly disappointed.
The second of the Boks’ tries had closed the gap to eight points at 23-15 midway through the second half as they stormed back into contention, fueled by the energy of the Bomb Squad, but that was the high-point for the visitors as the All Blacks once again converted the sniff of a chance into seven points from wing Will Jordan try to restore the home team’s cushion with 11 minutes to go.
A fast and furious start by the All Blacks – keeping the tempo high with a short-passing game and a punishing kicking game – had set the Boks well and truly on their heels as the home team surged into a 17-0 lead in 15 minutes as the Springboks chased shadows in the opening quarter.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith was untouched for the first of New Zealand’s two tries in that period, given a scoring run in by Jordan who regained his feet from Bok fullback Wille le Roux’s tackle to curve infield from 30 metres and supply his supporting halfback on the inside.
Powerful loose foward Shannon Frizell thundered through a couple of tackles in the left-hand corner for the second against the back-pedaling defence and, with Richie Mo’unga (flyhalf) converting both and adding a penalty from in front for offside, the Springboks had a mountain to climb.
It had appeared the first steps were taken in the opening half as first Cheslin Kolbe (wing) and then Eben Etzebeth (lock) crossed the line for TMO referrals. Kolbe was ruled not to have grounded the ball as it bobbled between his legs after Beauden Barrett (fullback) fumbled a high ball on the goal-line. Etzebeth’s referral was halted for an earlier neck roll by his lock partner, Lood de Jager.
The entry of the Bomb Squad at the start of the second half began to properly turn the tide as the Boks’ energy levels lifted and their swarming defence and eager carrying drove back the All Blacks.
In the 53rd minute a powerful maul saw replacement hooker Malcolm Marx get what all hoped was the crucial first score of the half.
That was followed by an absolute beauty from Kolbe, swallow-diving in from five metres after a beautiful floated cut-out pass from Le Roux took out the All Blacks’ defence.
But a cross-kick from Beauden Barrett to Jordan for his try (69th minute) and then Mo’unga (77th minute) cruising in down the blindside of an attacking scrum shattered the Boks’ hopes of what would have been a miraculous recovery.
There was time for the livewire flanker Kwagga Smith to strip a ruck and power over from ten metres just before the final siren, which came as Kolbe ran back the kick off and was taken into touch deep in the home team’s half. It summed up the Boks’ evening, promising at times but ultimately falling short.
Springboks 20 (3) – Tries: Malcolm Marx, Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith. Conversion: Kolbe. Penalty goal: Faf de Klerk.
New Zealand 35 (20) – Tries: Aaron Smith, Shannon Frizell, Will Jordan, Richie Mo’unga. Conversions: Mo’unga (3). Penalty goals: Mo’unga (3).