All Blacks turn back determined Argentina

Getty Images

Lynn McConnell     09 Sep 2017     Getty Images

The big blindside flanker set Yarrow Stadium alight with a 50th minute try from a stunning solo burst that recalled great tries from the past scored by loose forward legends Peter Jones and Ian Kirkpatrick.

It came when New Zealand were down to 14-men with Beauden Barrett in the sin-bin and it was from a long pass which allowed him to round a lone three-quarter defender and then clear out 45m to the goal-line to level the scores at 22-22.

Soon after another strong run looked to have set up a second try for Damian McKenzie but it was called back after a TMO check ruled a forward pass in the movement.

Fifita signaled his ability early with two strong contributions driving into the defence and from the second, after set-up work done by second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams, fullback Damian McKenzie broke the line at speed when going around No.8 Benjamin Macome and into space before sending the ball out to returning World Cup wing Nehe Milner-Skudder for a seventh- minute try.

A mistake by flanker Javier Desio at a re-start after the penalty goal by Argentina's first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez when he swatted at ball that was probably going to fall short of the 10m requirement resulted in the All Blacks gaining a scrum feed.

From that they built and from a second scrum Read took the ball off the back, and fed to Barrett who slide a kick through behind the defence and centre Anton Lienert-Brown raced through to drag the ball down just short of the dead-ball line. 

The All Blacks started to put their scrum into effect, firstly winning a penalty when Argentina tighthead Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro was popped up as a result of pressure. They didn't score from the resulting penalty but were provided with another chance when the Pumas infringed with their defensive line. The All Blacks took a scrum and while their work wasn't the tidiest they got the ball wide for wing Israel Dagg to score.

However, a long kick downfield by halfback Tomas Cubelli required a lineout just out from the All Blacks line after the half-time hooter had sounded. Read didn't control his lineout take and the ball bobbled between TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea and Argentina's hooker and captain Agustin Creevy capped his own fine first half by driving up to the line.

Argentina sensed they had a rare chance of an upset and took the momentum and while they had two attempts with forward pick-and-goes it was when they released it to the backs that Sanchez made no mistake. With his conversion he gave Argentina a 16-15 half-time lead while he also achieved the personal milestone of scoring by all four means – only the fourth player to do that against New Zealand.

Argentina extended the lead when Boffelli opened the second half with a 51m penalty goal which could have been extended had Sanchez knocked over an easy 49th minute effort. However, their tactic of putting the ball into the New Plymouth air proved worthwhile as McKenzie was unable to take the kicks with control and from one such kick, Argentine rumbled forward with Creevy and Boffelli carried the ball to the line.

Desperate defence saw the All Blacks concede penalty advantage on three occasions and finally the penalty was called with Barrett sent to the sin-bin.

Opting for the penalty goal, rather than a scrum with New Zealand one-man down, Sanchez took the lead to 22-15. But from the restart melee Cubelli had his kick charged down by hooker Dane Coles. Perenara grabbed the ball and threw a long pass to Fifita who scored his crucial try. With Dagg off the field for an HIA, replacement Lima Sopoaga added the conversion to level the scores.

New Zealand were able to minimize Barrett's absence by getting into the Argentina 22m area and keeping the pressure on. By the time Barrett came back, Dagg was substituted with McKenzie moving to the left wing and Barrett moving to fullback.

It had instant rewards after Read, whose captaincy was fully tested on the night, called for two scrums from penalties five metres out and when the ball was released it was McKenzie who scored in the corner.

Ngani Laumape's introduction for the last five minutes resulted in a try for Beauden Barrett to seal the game with a perfect display of support.

The win came at a cost with loosehead prop Joe Moody leaving the field with a shoulder injury, not long after making a barn-storming run in the loose that kept the pressure on Argentina into the final quarter.

Scorers: New Zealand 39 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Anton Liernert-Brown, Israel Dagg, Vaea Fifita, Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett tries; Lima Sopoaga 3 con, pen) Argentina 22 (Nicolas Sanchez try, con, 2 pen, dropped goal; Emiliano Boffelli 2 pen). HT: 15-16