Aaron Smith gets to know Damian de Allende (Photo/ Warren Little - World Rugby via Getty Images)
The All Blacks' World Cup campaign has got off to a winning start, beating the Springboks 23-13 in Yokohama tonight.
It was the Springboks who dominated the early stages of the game, and found themselves up 3-0 after only two minutes when Handre Pollard knocked over a penalty goal. The Boks should have doubled their lead not long after from an even easier angle, but his shot clanked off the post.
It was a piece of Sevu Reece brilliance that turned the tide in the first half for the All Blacks, with the Fijian-born winger pulling off a miraculous bit of handling near his own line to get the ball cleared back up to halfway. From there the All Blacks clicked into gear, and a Beauden Barrett charge into the 22 meant George Bridge could dive over for their first try of the tournament after 23 minutes.
Just three minutes later Scott Barrett got his moment of redemption. Instead of being shown a red card, the youngest brother of the talented All Black trio found himself being awarded a try by referee Jerome Garces. He got a pass 35 metres out from the line after a break by Anton Lienert-Brown, and charged under the posts to give the All Blacks a 17-3 lead that they took into the break.
However, the Boks came out firing in the second half. Pieter-Steph du Toit took advantage of a bad defensive read close to the ruck to go in under the posts. Pollard then slammed home a drop goal from 40 metres out to bring them within a try.
That’s when the All Blacks switched their plan to one of a more conservative nature. They brought themselves within range of a penalty goal and converted two, which stretched the lead out to an important 10 points. Despite a couple of late charges by the South Africans, the defensive efforts of the All Blacks held them out for a crucial victory.
Key to the All Black efforts were Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, who marshalled the backline well after a tentative start. The scrum looked a little wobbly at times, so there is something to work on in their next three pool matches against Canada, Namibia and Italy.
The win puts them top of Pool B, with their likely quarter-final opponent the loser of the Ireland v Scotland match tomorrow.
All Blacks 23 (G Bridge, S Barrett tries; R Mo’unga 2 pen, 2 con, B Barrett pen)
Springboks 13 (P du-Toit try, H Pollard pen, con, dg)