Two tries from captain Kieran Read helped New Zealand move to the top of the Rugby Championship after a 29-15 victory over South Africa in a match marked by the dismissal of Bismarck du Plessis for two contentious yellow cards.
The Kiwis’ bonus-point victory in Auckland came at the cost of a collarbone injury to their fly-half Daniel Carter in a crunching tackle from Du Plessis.
The South African hooker was yellow carded for the tackle that, according to New Zealand’s coach, Steve Hansen, could sideline Carter for between four and six weeks.
Du Plessis received a second yellow in the first minute of the second half for leading with his elbow into the throat of Liam Messam.
Neither Hansen nor his counterpart, Heyneke Meyer, would discuss the yellow cards from referee Romain Poite, though Hansen said that anyone leading with their elbow was at risk of a red card.
Meyer said: “We don’t have any excuses. I thought the better team won on the day. That’s why they’re world champs. But you’re not going to play 14 men against the best team in the world and take them on.”
An intense match turned on the tackle that put Carter out and sidelined Du Plessis and put his participation on a knife edge. When the hooker clattered Messam and was sent off it ended the game as a contest.
New Zealand triumphed with tries from Read, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane (pictured), who left the field with a cut head.
In the Aviva Premiership, a late Ian Humphreys penalty secured a barely deserved 20-18 victory for London Irish at Worcester, thanks to late ill-discipline from the hosts.
Marland Yarde scored a pair of tries but it was Humphreys who was the match winner with four minutes left after Ed Shervington was penalised. David Lemi and Ignacio Mieres scored the Warriors’ two tries with the Argentinian adding eight points from his boot.
Worcester had themselves to blame for defeat after they had been the better side but failed to take their chances. By contrast, Yarde made the most of the only two significant chances to score tries in the match.
In the Pro12, Ospreys salvaged a point in a 29-29 draw away to Leinster, who opened a three-point lead with four minutes to go, only for Dan Biggar to level with a penalty of his own as the clock ran down.