The final week of action in the Rugby Championship saw all four nations still mathematically in with a chance of lifting the title, but after the dust settled, it was New Zealand who were crowned champions.
The All Blacks blew away Australia in Auckland, meaning South Africa needed a 40-point bonus-point victory over Argentina to lift the trophy, but the Springboks came up short, allowing New Zealand to win their eighth title.
So read on as we take an in-depth look at the action and talking points from the final week of action in this year’s Rugby Championship.
All Blacks Steamroller the Wallabies
After last week’s clash went to the wire, Saturday’s rematch in Auckland was one-way traffic from the start as New Zealand steam-rollered Australia. The All Blacks powered into a 17-0 half-time lead courtesy of a stunning Will Jordan try and a penalty try.
And it was more of the same after the break as Australian ill-discipline saw New Zealand score two more tries within the first 15 minutes of the second half, with Sam Whitelock and Codie Taylor crossing the line.
Two converted tries from Australia, sandwiching another AB’s try, put some respectability on the scoreboard, but this was a dominant display by New Zealand, who ran out 40-14 winners. Defeat meant it has now been 36 years since the Wallabies last won at Eden Park, and it’s been a frustrating championship for Australia as they build towards next year’s World Cup.
The bonus point victory at Eden Park meant that South Africa had to rack up the points over Argentina to snatch the Rugby Championship title away from New Zealand.
Springboks Come Up Short
After New Zealand’s win over Australia, the task for South Africa was straightforward, a 40-point bonus-point victory over Argentina and the Rugby Championship title would be theirs.
However, Argentina are a different beast this year under new coach Michael Cheika, and despite their best efforts, the Springboks could only muster a 31-18 victory over the belligerent Pumas.
The Springboks had cruised into a 17-0 lead before an Argentine try on the stroke of half-time hauled the visitors back into contention in Durban. And a stunning try early in the second half by Juan Martin Gonzalez essentially ended South Africa’s chance of Rugby Championship glory.
Victory on the day was to be South Africa’s, though, with three more tries for the hosts, including two penalty ones, with Argentina adding a converted try of their own to see the match end 38-21. Both these nations will take positives from this year’s rugby Championship with one eye on next year’s World Cup in France.
And despite coming up short here, you can be assured South Africa will be fully ready to defend their World Cup title.