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The Sporting Scoop - Rugby And Cricket

An improved performance from South Africa and a whistle happy referee were not enough to knock the All Blacks off their stride as New Zealand won by 34-18 in Pretoria in the early hours of this morning local time.

The return of halfback Joost van der Westhuizen and recent defeats seemed to sting the Springboks into urgency and they converted that into early points as Ed Morrison began handing out penalties to make himself the most important man on the field.

After a series of penalties saw the score go to 6-3 in the All Blacks favour, Jeff Wilson potted a drop goal (9-3). Springbok Du Toit seemingly inspired by Wilson tried a drop kick, this was charged down and from the resulting scramble Springbok centre Andre Snyman scampered over for the first try of the match.

While Snyman's efforts boosted the Springboks, he was soon another injury worry for the plagued side as with the score at 9-8 he was carried off the field with a bad leg injury.

Shortly afterwards Mehrtens, who had another solid kicking game, kicked another penalty and then Daryl Gibson had to leave the field due to injury. This brought a reshuffle in the back line with Jonah Lomu going to Christian Cullen's wing and Cullen going to centre.

Cullen's first touch of the ball in his new position saw him split the Springbok defence with an angled run and sprint 30 metres for a try. Then came a shock as. Mehrtens missed a kick at goal.

A further exchange of penalties made the half time score 20-11 and a fired up Springbok side fought back into the game with Westhuizen showing all his old style to speed through for a try, which was duly converted.

Last year's All Blacks may have faltered at 20-18, but they look composed as Wilson was denied a penalty try as he was pulled down without the ball, while pursuing a hack through that wold have almost certainly resulted in a try.

Again and again the ball went to the outside backs and the pressure resulted in penalties with the score rising to 26-18.

The game was sealed when with 15 minutes to go when Cullen once again split the defence following a storming run from Lomu and a marvelous linking pass from Taine Randell.

The Springboks looked tired but Westhuizen' never gave up until another penalty to Mehrtens in injury time brought the final score up 34-18.

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NZ Batsmen Knock England Out Of Game

Ian Little, an unrepentant British sports fan, reports on the third day of the third test between England and New Zealand.

A gloomy day weather wise in Manchester was a dark day for the English cricket team as well as the New Zealanders handed out a lesson in aggressive batting to a timid home side.

As Britain's finest cricket experts gathered in front of my TV set (and radio, bloody racing), it became clear that the English captain, Mark Butcher had little of our ability as he persisted with a spin attack that was gaining little turn. The much-feared pitch seemed to hold few demons for the batters and Butcher failed to use his seam attack on a wicket that did have uneven bounce.

After bad light delayed the start, Nathan Astle let loose scoring a century in 174 balls, while Matthew Bell swept away at the other end to score his maiden test half-century. The New Zealand voice on the commentary team, Ian Smith, could barely contain his glee as he commiserated with his British colleagues as the English total was reached and overhauled with no further loss of wickets.

The pair's mauling of England was finally brought to a close when Astle fell as he mistimed a hook from an Andy Caddick ball to give Peter Such a difficult chance. Bell went shortly after to a similar shot and the NZ batting line up started to look very long indeed

Roger Twose and Adam Parore made small contributions, but then Craig McMillan (58) and Chris Cairns (29) ripped into a tired and wayward bowling attack to put on 68 for the seventh wicket.

That pair will start the fourth day with New Zealand on 399 for 6 (a lead of 200) with three capable batsman still to come. Barring rain it would take a heroic effort for England to save this test and the way their heads were hanging that looks most unlikely.

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