All Blacks draw first blood

All Blacks draw first blood

Published Jul. 5, 2008 12:34 p.m. ET

New Zealand drew first blood in this year's Tri-Nations when they downed the Springboks 19-8 in a scrappy encounter at a wet and windy Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.

It was hard. The weather made it hard but not as hard as tow physical, determined teams slamming into each other for 80 - and then ending with smiles, handshakes and hugs, like heavyweight boxers at the end of a massive bout.

This was a massive bout, a massive scrap and one which the All Blacks deserved to win, especially for their second-half effort - their effort and Dan Carter's skill.

Afterwards captain Rodney So'oialo said that New Zealand had upped the pressure in the second half. They did. The Springboks did not score a single point while the All Blacks scored 10 and were there and thereabouts on other occasions. Once Rudi Wulf was judged to have been off-side as he chased a kick to score, once Bryan Habana just managed to get a touchdown ahead of Carter and once they were held up over the line. The nearest the Springboks came in the second half was a long-range drop by François Steyn that dipped just under the crossbar - fractionally under - as the Springboks looked at least for a bonus point out of the match.

As expected the All Blacks were dominant in the scrums - taking the ball off the Springboks in the first scrum and making scrumming an unpleasant experience, especially for Gürthro Steenkamp who had a poor game, as did CJ van der Linde who was replaced early in the second half feeling sore. John Smit hobbled off just before half-time, his place taken by Bismarck du Plessis, who had a fine general game but before Smit and Van der Linde went off the Springboks scrum was in terrible trouble.