New Zealand 57– Argentina 22
The All Blacks were wary of Los Pumas after their victory over the Springboks two weeks ago, but after a tight 50 minutes the Kiwis overpowered their visitors with 33 unanswered points.
Argentina started strongly in front of a capacity crowd in Hamilton. The big South American forwards took the ball up strongly, recycling well with runners one and two wide of the ruck, building momentum nicely. Just when the All Blacks were expecting the ball to go wide BAM! fullback Tulculet ran close to the ruck breaking a half tackle and popped a ball to halfback Landajo, who jumped clear and passed to winger Cordero for an opening score.
With only three minutes gone the home crowd was stunned. 7-0 Argentina.
The Pumas continued to take on the All Blacks’ line electing not to kick. Runners made metres with pick-and-goes: it was slow but effective. They also gained enough scrum and lineout ball to provide a platform from which to attack—they even won possession from two All Black throws.
Santiago Cordero – shocked crowd with try two minutes after kick-off
But after a charge down of an Argentine 22 drop-out and a subsequent 5-metre scrum, 9 Aaron Smith conducted winger Julian Savea through a gap near the line and he strolled through the posts untouched.
Argentina potted two penalties but Savea featured again beating several tacklers and attracting more defenders before for an excellent wide pass by Aaron Smith enabled fullback Ben Smith to breach the under-manned defence to score. NZ took the lead for the first time 14-13 after 25 minutes of high-paced rugby.
The Pumas still smelt All Black blood and their strong forward drives forged them into the NZ 22—twice almost scoring. Errors may have prevented tries but 10 Nicolas Sanchez was able to kick his third and fourth penalty goals of the half.
Israel Dagg kicked a long range penalty for the All Blacks, in turn, and they got their third try when Ben Smith grubbered a ball from 40 metres out and mercurial first-five, Beauden Barrett, grabbed the delicious bounce and scored.
If Argentina could keep the pace of the game up in the second half, and their bench contend with that of the locals, this could be a classic match.
Half-time score: New Zealand 24 – Argentina 19.
Beauden Barrett – grabbed a delicious bounce
After the break things started promisingly for the Pumas and ominously for the All Blacks. Argentina were playing with more urgency and taking possession from NZ phase after phase and going deep into the enemy camp. The Kiwis were helping out with a few errors such as fumbling kick-offs and losing lineouts which enabled the Pumas to rampage even more.
Coaches Hansen and Foster had had enough by this stage and out came a flood of All Black reserves – some for injury and some for fatigue – but the bench was cleared over the next ten minutes and the game changed.
And now the Pumas runners started to stand too deep and wide, and without forward progress Argentina began to kick away possession. This played into the All Blacks’ hands, who like sharks, fed hungrily off a flow of turnovers.
Ryan Crotty – first try started the damage
The scoreboard damage started in the 54th minute when Barrett jinked through then got another touch before passing to 12 Ryan Crotty to score. Three minutes later power running up the middle ended up with reserve prop, Charlie Faumuina trundling over.
All of a sudden the All Blacks were ahead 38-22 with a quarter of the game to go.
Starting inside the last 16 minutes the All Blacks added three sublime tries in a period where all their players were like a swarm of locusts.
The first happened when Crotty got the ball from a 5-metre scrum with only grass in front of him; then Ben Smith got the ball 45 metres out and turned winger Santiago Cordero inside out, Campese-style, for his second; and finally Luke Romano collected a cross kick, that bounced off Dagg’s shoulder for some distance, to dot down.
Final score: New Zealand 57 – Argentina 22
Ben Smith – turned defender inside out
It was a masterclass from New Zealand in the second half after blunting Argentina in the first. Eight tries to one was a good measure of their overall dominance.
The game had skill, urgency, intensity and passion and moments of brilliance. For the third Rugby Championship test in a row Los Pumas faded in the second half and one wonders how the game might have turned out had they been able to maintain their tactics of the first 50 minutes into the final 30.
Maybe we will find out in a few weeks time?
The Game Changer
After the break, Argentina were in the ascendancy and New Zealand were looking average, at best; but the tries in the 53rd and 56th minutes signalled a deluge and at that stage of the game the visitors had no answers.
Man-of-the-match Sam Cane dives on loose ball
Man of the match
The Pumas halfback Landajo, and hooker/captain Creevy had excellent games. They marshalled a young, strong, tough forward pack who put venom into their tackles and were accurate on defence all night. There will be some sore All Blacks in the morning.
For New Zealand Beauden Barrett picked his moments for brilliant play as did Ben Smith, but the Green & Gold Rugby man-of-the match is Sam Cane.
He was at his best for the All Blacks making crucial turnovers when the Pumas strayed too far from supports and forced penalties when Argentina tried to stop him doing so.
Score and Scorers
New Zealand – 57
Tries: J. Savea (10), B. Smith (23, 66), B.Barrett (35), R. Crotty (53, 63), C. Faumuina (56), L. Romano (76)
Conversions: B. Barrett (11, 24, 36, 54, 57, 64), A. Cruden (68)
Penalty: I. Dagg (31)
Argentina – 22
Try: S. Cordero (2)
Conversion: N. Sanchez (3)
Penalties: N. Sanchez (14, 18, 26, 38, 49)
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