Rugby: Drop goal makes the difference

Dan Carter kicks a drop goal in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup semifinal against South Africa....
Dan Carter kicks a drop goal in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup semifinal against South Africa. Photo: Getty Images

A drop goal, at last.

Despite dominating territory and possession, the All Blacks had not a point for for 35 minutes and trailed 7-12 on the scoreboard.

Jerome Kaino was yellow carded for some silly foul play and the rain started to fall on Twickenham.

New Zealand fans in the stands were getting nervous. Their worst fears were coming true - the All Blacks had been pulled into an arm wrestle with the Springboks. They could not get their game going - turnovers, dropped ball and penalties - and the South Africans, like they so often do, just kept the scoreboard ticking over.

How many times have the All Blacks been here before?

So when Richie McCaw cleaned up the ball from a sloppy lineout deep inside Springbok territory, then clumsily pushed it back to Aaron Smith, it looked like yet another attacking opportunity had been wasted.

Smith fired it to Dan Carter, who summed up the situation, and snapped the drop goal over from just outside the 22 line.

It never looked like missing. The drop goal - just the seventh of his career - was the crucial first scoring play in the second half and brought the crowd of 80,090 back to life.

Twickenham sounded like Eden Park, perhaps for the first and only time.

While Carter's kick wasn't the final scoring play, it was the difference in the final 20-18 scoreline.

If the demons of Cardiff 2007 weren't well and truly exorcised, when the All Blacks could not find a way to score when it counted most, following last week's stunning win over the French, they are now.

Dan Carter sat forlornly in the stands that day, unable to do anything. Next week he will play in his first Rugby World Cup final.

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