Rugby Union: Black day for South Africa

New Zealand 55 South Africa 35
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It was a day of records at Eden Park yesterday as New Zealand savaged 14-man South Africa to continue their unbeaten run in the Tri Nations.

But it was not the easy success the New Zealand public are starting to expect as they had to fight back from 21-11 down after a stunning opening half-hour by the world champions. It was only the 47th-minute dismissal by Derek Bevan, the Welsh referee, of the Springbok flanker Andre Venter that allowed New Zealand to take complete control and cut loose.

Christian Cullen, the inspirational full-back, scored two of their seven tries, bringing up his 17th touchdown in 17 Tests, as New Zealand posted their highest-ever total against South Africa and the losers conceded more than 50 for the first time.

It was also New Zealand's biggest winning margin against South Africa and, oddly, South Africa's biggest score against the All Blacks. But more than any record, the game will be remembered for the sending-off of Venter, who vented his frustrations by stomping all over the face of the All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, in a ruck.

South Africa, who led New Zealand 23-7 in the opening match of the series before losing 35-32, got themselves into a similarly strong position before the All Blacks turned on their awesome backline running.

A strong rolling maul in the second minute set up a try for the flanker Ruben Kruger but he was off before half-time with a broken ankle. The No 8, Teichmann, and the centre Percy Montgomery added tries from lucky bounces off their own kicks to give the South Africans a healthy-looking lead. New Zealand, however, are never more dangerous than when they are down and tries from Cullen, the outside-half Carlos Spencer, and Alama Ieremia, sent them into the break leading 23-21.

Two penalties in the opening five minutes of the second half nudged the All Blacks out of reach and Venter's dismissal finished it off. The scrum- half, Justin Marshall, scored in the 58th minute and Cullen got his second despite the desperate act of James Small, who received a yellow card for an attempted trip. The flanker Taine Randell was rewarded for an outstanding game with a try and Tana Umaga got the seventh.

South Africa ended up with five tries to get a bonus point but after three losses they are way out of contention in the series and their coach Carel du Plessis is now facing a torrid time after five losses from six Tests this season. "It was a very bad day for us. One red card, one yellow card, and one serious injury," he said.

In contrast the New Zealand coach, John Hart, was a happy man. "They played right into our hands," he said. "We were never going to let our discipline slip. I've warned the guys about it."

South Africa: R Bennett; J Small, P Montgomery, H Honiball, A Snyman; J de Beer, J van der Westhuizen; O du Randt, J Dalton, M Hurter, K Otto, M Andrews, R Kruger (F van Heerden, 10), A Venter, G Teichmann (capt).

New Zealand: C Cullen; J Wilson, F Bunce, A Ieremia, T Umaga; C Spencer, J Marshall; C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, I Jones, R Brooke, T Randell, J Kronfeld, Z Brooke.