Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Handre Pollard kicked four penalties as South Africa retained their Rugby World Cup title by the slimmest of margins in Paris; New Zealand skipper Sam Cane red carded for high tackle on Jesse Kriel in 29th minute; Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett missed kicks for 14-player NZ to lead

By Michael Cantillon

Last Updated: 28/10/23 10:23pm

Handre Pollard kicked four penalties as South Africa secured back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles

A first-ever Rugby World Cup final red card proved pivotal as New Zealand captain Sam Cane’s dismissal enabled Handre Pollard to kick South Africa to a 12-11 win and record fourth title. 

Pollard – who missed the start of the World Cup due to injury before being called up late – kicked four penalties, with Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi possibly lucky to avoid red himself for a head-on-head tackle on Ardie Savea, and Cheslin Kolbe sin-binned late on for a deliberate knock-on.

New Zealand scored their points through two Richie Mo’unga penalties and a Beauden Barrett try – with Aaron Smith having a further score ruled out – and refused to give up despite being down to 14 from the 29th minute, but they could not take their chances to ever lead in the contest, as Jordie Barrett missed a long-range penalty late on.

New Zealand – Tries: B Barrett (58). Pens: Mo’unga (17, 38).

South Africa – Pens: Pollard (3, 13, 19, 34).

Cane’s red card came due to a high tackle which made contact with the head of South Africa centre Jesse Kriel, with World Rugby’s foul play review bunker feeding back the act had a high degree of danger, with no obvious mitigation.

New Zealand skipper Sam Cane becomes the first player ever to be red carded in a Rugby World Cup final

The All Blacks were reduced to 14 players less than three minutes in, when Frizell was rightfully penalised by TMO Tom Foley for falling onto the standing leg of South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonami at a ruck, causing a knee injury in the process.

Shannon Frizell was sin-binned early for dangerously landing on the leg of a player at a ruck

Pollard kicked the first points of the final after that incident, before much of the early proceedings were dominated by kicking out of hand, despite South Africa facing 14 players.

Pollard struck for 6-0 when the All Blacks were penalised at the breakdown, and only the bounce of the ball denied Ardie Savea a try in response down the other end off a Jordie Barrett chip kick. New Zealand had been playing on penalty advantage, allowing Mo’unga to kick over for 6-3.

Pollard kicked solidly off the tee for South Africa in victory

On 20 minutes, a harsh breakdown penalty against Savea saw a Pollard strike from distance creep just over the bar.

Eben Etzebeth soon knocked on in the carry just outside his 22, but it was a scrum New Zealand would not get to attack from as, after a review, Cane was dismissed for his high tackle on Kriel.

Wayne Barnes produced the red card after World Rugby’s bunker review system, and New Zealand could have little complaint

Cane

Six minutes from the end of the half, Pollard stretched the lead out to two scores, but New Zealand’s 14 reacted heartily before the break, with Frizell and Rieko Ioane both going close to tries – the latter after an attack had been disrupted by a clearly offside Etzebeth, who was very fortunate not to be sin-binned.

Mo’unga kicked over that penalty to leave things 12-6 at the break, but New Zealand facing an extremely tough ask.

New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga kicked them to within six points, but would miss a conversion for the lead

Five minutes into the second period, the numbers could have been evened up when Kolisi collided with the head of Savea, but though he was sin-binned, the bunker fed back that a change in dynamics of the situation was just enough to spare a red card.

From then on, New Zealand largely dictated play, belying the fact they had a player less, and turned down shots at the posts in search of a try.

After Smith’s score was ruled out for an earlier Savea knock-on, the All Blacks then got the try their pressure deserved when Mark Telea danced through and offloaded for Barrett to scoop up and score in the corner. Mo’unga critically missed the difficult conversion, though.

Kolbe’s yellow card for a deliberate knock-on with seven minutes to play handed New Zealand one final chance, but Jordie Barrett’s long-range penalty drifted wide, and a last-gasp attack saw the ball lost by Savea.

What’s next?

The victory means South Africa clinch Rugby World Cup glory for a record fourth time, after previous titles in 1995, 2007 and 2019. They end their campaign having finished second in Pool B after defeat to Ireland and wins over Scotland, Romania and Tonga, before beating hosts France 29-28 in the quarter-finals and England 16-15 in the semi-finals.

The defeat means New Zealand finish as runners-up at a Rugby World Cup for the second time in their history, after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa – which they also lost to the Springboks. They end their campaign having finished second in Pool A after defeat to hosts France and wins over Namibia, Italy and Uruguay, before beating Ireland 28-24 in the quarter-finals and Argentina 44-6 in the semi-finals.

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