AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) Flyhalf Beauden Barrett inspired the All Blacks to a record 57-0 win over the Springboks in a Rugby Championship test Saturday, dashing South Africa’s belief in the revival of its rugby fortunes this season.
Barrett’s attacking master-class helped the All Blacks score four tries to take a 31-0 lead by halftime. Four more tries followed in the second half as New Zealand posted its highest winning margin against South Africa.
The Springboks entered the match unbeaten in six tests this season, confident it had buried a wretched 2016 season in which it won only four of 12 tests.
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The All Blacks, in contrast, were down on confidence after a drawn series against the British and Irish Lions and narrow wins in their most recent tests against Australia and Argentina.
New Zealand weathered a strong beginning by the Springboks, then began to feast on South African errors and to find holes in a porous defense, running in four tries in the last 23 minutes of the first half, including two in the last seven minutes.
Barrett featured prominently in several of those-scoring movements, including the third All Blacks’ try which was scored by his brother Scott from Beauden’s pin-point cross-kick. He also had a hand in two tries by winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, who scored from an intercept in the first half, and from Barrett’s accurate long pass in the second.
Barrett’s goal-kicking had been questioned when he missed all three of his attempts during the All Blacks’ previous Rugby Championship test against Australia two weeks ago, but he returned to form Saturday, kicking eight of nine attempts for 17 points.
”We came out here with plenty of intensity,” All Blacks captain Kieran Read said. ”The South Africans have been playing really well this year, I commend them on that. The scoreline probably didn’t look pretty for them …”
South Africa began the game full of purpose, rushing up on the All Blacks in defense, applying pressure by holding the ball through phases in New Zealand’s territory. But they quickly began to come unstuck; their lineout was a constant bugbear and their defense showed an inability to regroup against quickly-assembled All Blacks counter-attacks.
The Springboks simply made too many errors in handling and in defense and New Zealand barely missed a chance to capitalize. Raymond Rhule on the left wing had a dismal night, missing three tackles on All Blacks flanker Liam Squire from the first three kickoffs and another on Rieko Ioane in the leadup to a first-half try by Brodie Retallick.
The result left the Springboks searching for answers as their six-match winning streak came to a shuddering halt.
”If we could have scored a try or a couple of points in the first half it could have been a different thing,” Springboks coach Allister Coetzee said. ”But they were just too good for us.”