Sportal.co.nz 08.Sep.2012Getty Images
The Pumas brought a raw-boned edge to the game and kept the pressure on the All Blacks without ever looking like they would take control of the contest but their good work was undone when they were reduced to 14 men in the 58th minute.
It appeared a long overdue chance to score had come after captain Richie McCaw charged into space behind the advantage line to set up some of the most thrilling running action of the game but as the ball was moved left a deliberate knock down was ruled by flanker Julio Farias Cabello as Cory Jane had Israel Dagg and Savea were unmarked.
McCaw's involvement was appropriate as he pulled another big one out of the fire to ensure New Zealand continued to batter the ramparts that made up the Pumas' defence. No.8 Kieran Read wasn't far behind and there will be some sore bodies on Sunday morning.
However, the quality of execution still hasn't been achieved which may prove a concern to the Springboks in next week's Test in Dunedin.
New Zealand led 6-5 at halftime, with their best chance to score in a rain affected first half, snuffed out just before the break. A desperate tackle by Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch on a flying flanker Victor Vito denied the All Blacks after a huge gap opened on the blindside and halfback Aaron Smith was quick to send Vito on his way, but Bosch's effort saved the day for his side.
The second half was delayed by a power outage in the port area of Wellington which blew the stadium floodlights, adding another 10 minutes to the half-time break. It is not an unusual phenomenon in modern sport, and in the return match of San Francisco's 49ers to the NFL in the United States, there were two outages against the Pittsburg Steelers at Candlestick Park in December.
Hoary memories of Wellington's past reputation as a rugby Test venue at the recently lamented Athletic Park were brought to mind as wind and rain combined to make the occasion miserable in only the way the Capital can get.
New Zealand, having just opened the scoring in the eighth minute when first five-eighths Aaron Cruden landed a penalty goal, then created a fundamental error when trying to run the ball from their own line. Second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu attempted to barge his way through the midfield defences. But in the process he lost the ball and it was quickly flicked to the right and after a succession of drives it was prop Rodrigo Roncero who scored.
The game became a skittery affair as the All Blacks battled to achieve the accuracy they wanted with protection of the ball at the base of rucks still an issue and the timing of the transfer in the backline sufficiently off cue to allow the Argentine defence to scramble.
Equally, the Argentine side employed South African style tactics in kicking ball downfield and forcing the issue as the All Blacks either decided to try and run the ball, or kick it back downfield allowing Argentina to attempt to run it back.
New Zealand looked to be starting to stretch the defences when able to string moves together but initially it was Cruden's boot that added to the score in the 50th minute. New Zealand also ran the changes by substituting Vito and hooker Keven Mealamu within eight minutes of the restart.
Cruden's kick hit the post and rebounded away for Argentina to clear. Piri Weepu replaced Smith and immediate more space opened on the blindside but a knock-on was ruled in the Argentine 22.
The reward came in the 65th minute, just as it had in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final, when Savea punched room through the midfield only for another ruck and maul to be set up. As the ball was moved back and forth, the break came when Dagg joined the line, found Conrad Smith and he snaked through to pass on to Nonu. Minimising the risk he handed on to Savea who scored in the corner.
Then from a scrum move an almost orthodox approach with Cruden flinging a long pass saw Cory Jane over in the corner, with Cruden adding the extras with a superb conversion.
Rodriguez was a constant danger when Argentina ran the angles in the backline allowing him to burst through at speed, however, the All Blacks defences were awake to the danger but prospective danger man Juan Martin Hernandez at first five-eighths was allowed little chance to dominate proceedings.
New Zealand 21 (Julian Savea, Cory Jane tries; Aaron Cruden con, 3 pen) Argentina 5 ( Rodrigo Roncero try). HT: 6-5