Rampant All Blacks quell Argentine spirit

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Lynn McConnell     10 Sep 2016     Getty Images

In spite of the final scoreline, this was a bruising encounter, far tougher physically than the two Australian Tests earlier in the campaign as the Pumas demonstrated how much their game has advanced. But for all their impressive ball play, the All Blacks showed their skills were still superior.


Argentina took the All Blacks on at the running game, but their inability to get across the goal-line often enough meant their aspirations were unrewarded and as their assaults were turned back they ran into fitness issues.

By keeping the ball in hand the Argentinians denied the All Blacks of the ball for long periods but there are few better teams at playing without the ball than New Zealand.

The defensive line was only troubled with the Pumas finding a way to wriggle out of tackles without being held. But generally the defence scrambled.

While it was the last quarter in the most recent matches that saw the All Blacks take charge, it was the third quarter that produced three tries in 10 minutes, two of them to second five-eighths Ryan Crotty and the third to replacement prop Charlie Faumuina.

More followed as fullback Ben Smith took a gap and then turned the defence inside out in working his way to over in the 66th minute for his second try.

That last act saw replacement lock Luke Romano rewarded for backing up an Aaron Cruden cross-kick which rebounded spectacularly off its intended target wing Israel Dagg to Romano who plucked it out of the air to score.
Organised chaos was how All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino described the Argentine style of play and it was on display during a frenetic first 40 minutes in which they ran the ball at every opportunity, only using tactical kicks in the last five minutes of the half. By that stage the need for oxygen was obvious as the effort showed its effects.

New Zealand were required to move into high alert for in-passes and beautifully delivered pop passes in tackles. It was sufficient to provide the opening try to wing Santiago Cordero only two minutes into the game and it almost provided another when prop Nahuel Tetaz looked to have cut the defences to shreds only for the ball to dropped.

Some heavy tackles were made on both sides but Argentina were like the incoming tide with wave after wave of intent only to be met by a sea wall of black jerseys that largely weathered the storm.

There was sufficient error to provide Argentine first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez with four attempts at penalty, three of which were successful.

New Zealand responded with three tries, all by creative use of the ball. Ten minutes into the game wing Julian Savea, who looked menacing throughout, charged in from the blindside to take an inside pass from halfback Aaron Smith to be untroubled en route to the goal-line for his 42nd Test try.

Faced with the Pumas own version of tough defence fullback Ben Smith lobbed a mid-field bomb and with Savea running through to create indecision the ball was regained by the All Blacks and when it emerged through the diminished Argentine defence it was Ben Smith who finished off what he started in the 23rd minute.

There was a similar result when first five-eighths Beauden Barrett fielded the ball in the All Blacks 22m and moved it wide to set up a midfield ruck. In the process the blindside was opened up and while well-populated Ben Smith put another kick over the top and as it found land, there was little doubt when he sped after it that Barrett would secure the bouncing ball to run in another try – his 14th in Tests.

While Barrett retained his golden touch with ball in hand, he wasn't so successful from the penalty goal attempt area and after two misses, one a poster, he handed the ball to wing Israel Dagg for a 31st minute shot from 42 metres which went over.

By taking control during the third quarter the All Blacks selectors were able to empty their bench to give their players extended playing time, something that should be of immense benefit in the latter stages of the campaign.

Scorers: New Zealand 57 (Julian Savea, Ben Smith 2, Beauden Barrett, Ryan Crotty 2, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano tries; Barrett 6 con; Israel Dagg pen; Aaron Cruden 2 con) Argentina 22 (Santiago Cordero try; Nicolas Sanchez con, 4 pen). HT: 24-19