All Blacks finish 2020 on a high

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It was off a foundation provided by a committed forward pack that exacted a demanding defensive toll of the Argentinians forced to make 149 tackles compared to only 44 by the All Blacks, and they missed 24 tackles while the All Blacks missed only five.

 

That was enough to get the All Blacks out to a 17-0 lead by midway through the second half before replacement wing Will Jordan made his mark by scoring two tries in two minutes, the first off one of many dropped balls by Argentina on the night and the second from an intercept.

 

But it was the work of the pack that provided the impetus and sucked the power from the Argentine threat.

 

Prop Nepo Laulala, handling the ball time after time as if he was a back, and flanker Akira Ioane, who staked his claim for a blindside flanker's berth of permanence with an impressive display of power, both with ball in hand and in defence were outstanding in a top-flight All Blacks display.

 

Much of the pre-game focus had been on discipline and it was into the 81st minute before that lapsed when replacement prop Tyrel Lomax was sin-binned for contact to a player on the ground's head. A reversed penalty after a push made by replacement hooker Codie Taylor threatened to give Argentina a chance to deny the All Blacks a bonus point.

But, instead, another turnover saw Jordan use his footwork to open a gap, and as the All Blacks' support play opened play up, it was a delayed pass that propelled lock Patrick Tuipulotu into a gap and he romped 35m to score.

 

The All Blacks scored a point before the game when they acknowledged the death of Argentine football hero Diego Maradona by presenting a signed shirt to the South Americans just before doing their haka.

 

Eleven phases of hard-nosed ball-carrying from the pack resulted in the first try, scored by hooker Dane Coles 12 minutes after the start. Ioane, locks Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett and props Joe Moody and Laulala all made ground with the ball before it emerged for first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga to flick a long pass to Coles on the sideline to score.

 

Revealing complete scrum dominance from the first packdown of the game, the All Blacks cleared their own line by pushing an attacking Argentina scrum back off the mark to claim a penalty.

That trend continued as they looked to make every impression they could over the less experienced Argentine side.

 

The All Blacks dominance was reflected by the halftime statistics. They carried 533m (199m in the first half) compared to (25m) by Argentina and made 131 (68) carries to 49 (18). They beat 26 (11) defenders to five (two).. They also won 110 (64) rucks to 37 (16) while stealing two lineouts.

 

In the mid-30s temperatures in which the game started that was a significant workload. The 10-0 lead might have been three points better had not a Mo'unga penalty goal attempt from a handy position hit the post and rebounded into the field of play.

 

The scrum continued to be a weapon in the second half, 11 minutes in, after another concerted period on attack, the All Blacks pushed the Argentina pack off the ball on their feed, won a penalty and opted for the lineout. Barrett took the ball, dropping it to No8 Ardie Savea who drove over for the try.

 

With both sides ringing the changes, there was a settling in period but any Argentina impetus was undone by their propensity for handling mistakes – undoubtedly contributed to by having to make so many tackles on the night.

 

It was the sort of performance expected of an All Blacks team that had suffered the reversals of their last two outings and will ensure their summer break will be a happier experience.

 

Scorers: Argentina 0 New Zealand 38 (Dane Coles, Ardie Savea, Will Jordan 2, Patrick Tuipulotu tries; Richie Mo'unga 5 con, pen). HT: 0-10

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