Messam is hero and villain as All Blacks keep title

Sat Oct 5, 2013 7:50pm EDT
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By Nick Said

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Liam Messam ran in two tries and was sin-binned as New Zealand underlined their status as the world's top ranked team by retaining the Rugby Championship title with a thrilling 38-27 victory over South Africa on Saturday.

The brilliant All Blacks were crowned champions after scoring five tries through Messam (2), Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read.

South Africa needed to score four tries to have a chance of capturing the trophy but touchdowns by Bryan Habana (2), Willie le Roux and Jean de Villiers were unable to give them the win they needed.

"We are thrilled with the win and the manner in which we got it, two yellow cards meant we played for 20 minutes with 14 men but the boys showed a lot of character," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told reporters.

"We were under pressure in the first half and came through that which shows the mental fortitude of the group.

"In the modern game you have to have a whole lot of people who are ball carriers and we had that today, but I thought our scrums held up well, our line-out was good and we defended our line brilliantly."

The All Blacks matched the physicality and skill of the home team in a contest during which the lead regularly changed hands before the New Zealanders pulled clear in the final 20 minutes.

Richie McCaw's team finished with six wins from six games in the annual competition with South Africa second, ahead of Australia and Argentina who complete the program when they meet in Rosario later on Saturday.   Continued...

South Africa's captain Jean de Villiers scores a try as he is challenged by New Zealand's All Blacks Aaron Smith (top) during the final round of the Rugby Championship at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg,October 5, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT RUGBY)