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TOKYO (AP) — The Latest on Day 2 of the Rugby World Cup in Japan (all times local):
New Zealand straightened the world champion crown on its head and removed any doubt about its status as Rugby World Cup favorite as it overcame South Africa 23-13 in the tournament’s most anticipated pool game.
A resurgent South Africa drew with the All Blacks on their home turf in July and stripped them of the Rugby Championship to make many question whether the New Zealanders had been finally brought back to the field. They also lost the No. 1 ranking they’d held for a decade, but that’s coming back to them after this win that showed off their ruthlessness and depth of skills.
Defending champion New Zealand led South Africa 17-3 at halftime in their much-anticipated pool match in Yokohama.
The Springboks’ stifling defense kept the All Blacks in check until the second quarter, when the New Zealanders struck twice quickly with imagination and speed to leave the South Africa behind on the scoreboard.
George Bridge and Scott Barrett scored the tries in a three-minute span, both converted by Richie Mo’unga, and the All Blacks looked good to begin their quest for a third successive World Cup triumph with a win over their greatest foe.
Flyhalf Camille Lopez came off the bench to nail an audacious dropped goal as France withstood a ferocious Argentina comeback to win 23-21 in their Rugby World Cup Pool C opener.
Argentina rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit thanks to its imposing forward play, with lock Guido Petti and replacement hooker Julian Montoya punishing weak defense from a flagging France with easy tries after the break. Two penalties from Benjamin Urdapilleta gave Argentina a 21-20 lead, but Lopez replied one minute later to make it 23-21.
Argentina fullback Emiliano Boffelli missed a last-minute, 47-meter penalty attempt which would certainly have given his team victory.
Les Bleus had seemed in control after carving Argentina open with their running game during the first half, with center Gael Fickou scoring a try on the left and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont touching down on the right.
Flyhalf Romain Ntamack coolly converted both tries from difficult positions out wide, and slotted over two penalties to pad out the advantage. He missed a penalty attempt late in the match that could have given the French a five-point buffer.
France has cut Argentina open with its running game, scoring two well-worked tries to lead 20-3 at halftime in their Rugby World Cup Pool C match.
Center Gael Fickou got the first on the left flank after 17 minutes, stepping inside swiftly after taking a pass from midfield partner Virimi Vakatawa.
Scrumhalf Antoine Dupont scored the second down the right, four minutes later, set up by winger Damian Penaud after an excellent surging run from veteran fullback Maxime Medard.
Flyhalf Romain Ntamack coolly converted both tries from difficult positions out wide, and slotted over two penalties to pad out the advantage.
Argentina led 3-0 through flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez’s penalty in the 14th, after he’d botched his first attempt.
Australia avoided the first big upset of the Rugby World Cup when it rallied from 21-12 down in the second half to beat Fiji 39-21.
The two-time champions were rattled by an early try to flanker Peceli Yato and a 50-meter intercept in the opening minutes of the second half by center Waisea Nayacalevu.
But as Fiji appeared set�for its biggest result at a Rugby World Cup, Australia regained its composure.
Two tries in quick succession from rolling mauls by hooker Tolu Latu put Australia ahead for the first time in the 62nd minute as the Wallabies finally found a way to neutralize Fiji’s powerful and elusive running game. The Australians took full advantage when Fiji had a man in the sin-bin late in the second half.
Backs Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete, both born in Fiji, scored late to make it appear comfortable for Australia, which scored six tries in all.
Fiji leads two-time champion Australia 14-12 at halftime and there’s a big upset on the cards in the second game of the Rugby World Cup.
Fiji winger Josua Tuisova rampaged down the right side to set up a try for flanker Peceli Yato in the eighth minute. That score added to an earlier penalty by flyhalf Ben Volavola and gave Fiji a surprise 8-0 lead at the Sapporo Dome.
Australia recovered from its shaky start when captain Michael Hooper drove over in the 18th. Christian Leali’ifano converted for 8-7.�
Volavola kicked two more penalties but wing Reece Hodge added a second try for Australia five minutes before halftime.
Before that, Fiji’s powerful runners were bursting through tackles and rattling the Australians, who last lost to Fiji in 1954.
Australia has only lost two World Cup group games and a defeat against Fiji on Saturday would probably rank as its most surprising loss at the quadrennial event.
The Rugby World Cup game between Australia and Fiji has kicked off under the permanent roof at the Sapporo Dome.
The stadium in northern Japan is traditionally a baseball arena and home to the Hokkaido Nippon-H
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