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South Africa beat New Zealand by a point to win record fourth Rugby World Cup

PARIS – Handre Pollard kicked four penalties to help South Africa to a nail-biting 12-11 victory over 14-man New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday to claim a record fourth title.

As is so often the case with finals, the match proved to be a tight, edgy encounter at a rain-soaked Stade de France where defence ruled and the All Blacks lost captain Sam Cane to a first-half red card for a high tackle.

The game, with tennis stars Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic among the 80,065 spectators, got off to a dramatic start.

All Black flanker Shannon Frizell was yellow carded by referee Wayne Barnes after just two minutes for an illegal ruck clearout that saw Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, the sole specialist number two in the squad, leave the pitch with an injured right knee.

Pollard kicked the penalty as Deon Fourie, a 37-year-old flanker, replaced Mbonambi, who was cleared earlier in the week of using a racial slur against England flanker Tom Curry in the semi-final.

Pollard, who kicked 22 points in South Africa’s final victory over England four years ago in Japan, booted a second penalty after Codie Taylor failed to roll away in a ruck.

The opening quarter was not for the faint-hearted, each side delivering a succession of eye-watering hits as the Boks, whose aggressive defence was led by the outstanding Pieter-Steph du Toit, pinned the All Blacks in their own territory.

A late Faf de Klerk hit on Mark Tele’a saw Jordie Barrett kick for the corner and from a series of drives, the Boks infringed and Richie Mo’unga got the All Blacks on the scoreboard with an easy penalty.

Pollard hit straight back after Ardie Savea flopped over a ruck, connecting perfectly to convert a monster 49-metre effort.

– All Blacks frustrated –

New Zealand’s woes were compounded when Cane was yellow carded in the 29th minute for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel, later upgraded to red for a high degree of danger with no mitigation, according to the television match official.

Cane became the first player red-carded in a World Cup final and the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men for 46 minutes of the match.

Yet another punishing hit by Du Toit, this time on Will Jordan, piled the pressure back on New Zealand, Pollard kicking his fourth penalty.

Mo’unga kicked a second penalty to make it 12-6 at 40 minutes, the All Blacks trudging back to the changing rooms without their skipper and in full knowledge that no team has ever come back from behind at half-time to win a final.

South Africa then saw two clear try-scoring chances go a-begging.

Firstly, Siya Kolisi was guilty of butchering a clear five-pointer just seconds into the second period, keeping hold of the ball as the whitewash beckoned despite Cheslin Kolbe racing up inside and Kriel on the flank.

Kurt-Lee Arendse then went close, just failing to gather a clever Kolbe grubber as the Boks dominated possession.

Kolisi was rightly yellow carded for a high tackle on Savea, who led the All Black charge back up the pitch, Mo’unga spilling the ball in a rare attack after Tele’a had soared to take a towering up-and-under.

Another All Black kick to the corner eventually paid off as the ball was recycled left to Tele’a, who beat three men before offloading, Beauden Barrett scooping up the ball to dot down.

Mo’unga missed the touchline conversion but the game was suddenly a one-point affair.

Kolbe’s ambitious 50-metre drop-goal — one of four an increasingly desperate Bok attempted — fell well short as both sides looked for an opening to close down the game.

The winger was then shown yellow for a deliberate knock-down of an Anton Lienert-Brown pass which meant the two teams would finish with 14 players.

Jordie Barrett, however, pushed the long-range penalty wide as the game entered a nerve-shredding final six minutes.

Another Du Toit hit on Barrett and a perfectly-timed De Klerk tap tackle on Dalton Papali’i in the dying moments were enough to see South Africa bag back-to-back titles and their fourth after wins in 1995, 2007 and 2019.

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