YOKOHAMA, Japan, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Four minutes of first-half brilliance led an otherwise unconvincing New Zealand to a 23-13 victory over South Africa in a clash between two World Cup favourites on Saturday that never quite lived up to its billing.
Having wrestled the Rugby Championship from their rivals last month, South Africa pinned a scrappy New Zealand back for 20 minutes but with only three points to show for it, the Springboks were left stunned by two scintillating team tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett.
A Pieter Steph du Toit try, moments after a stunning Cheslin Kolbe break, got South Africa right back in the match after halftime. Handre Pollard cut the deficit to four points with a drop goal but penalties from Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett consigned South Africa to their first defeat of 2019.
The All Blacks, who have an 11-day break before their next game against Canada, should easily go on to top Pool B and hope for an easier quarter-final as a result. South Africa next face Namibia in Toyota City. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Ed Osmond)