Investec Tri Nations title anyone's for the taking

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It is New Zealand's final game of the unprecedented 2020 season.


Saturday's draw, also in Newcastle, between Argentina and Australia, left all three sides with a chance to claim the title.


For the All Blacks, a regulation four-point win would put the pressure on Australia to beat Argentina in the final game of the tournament by an unlikely margin, due to the All Blacks 26+ points differential.


A bonus-point win for the All Blacks would put the pressure on Argentina to remain close enough for a loser's bonus point and then beat Australia to claim their first Tri Nations title.


Australia's hopes of success in the series were not helped by their draw on Saturday when out to a 15-6 lead only to have Argentina come back to level the scores in the tryless contest.


Again Argentina's first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez was the key performer, landing five penalty goals, to ensure the draw. Australia's first five-eights Reece Hodge also landed five penalty goals but missed another, near the end, that would have given Australia the win.



Australia coach Dave Rennie said it appeared his side got bored.


"At 15-6 we had control of the game, we had chances to pin them in the corners. We had a fair bit of success from kicking; looks like we got bored of it.


"We should have closed that out. We've really got ourselves to blame," he said.


Rennie said the Australians had been working on their kicking game, but it wasn't instinctive yet.


"We had a lot of opportunities from two or three phases to then drill a corner, and they've got no one there, and we turn that into a foot race and apply a bit of pressure, and maybe we get a set-piece down there," he said.


Rennie said Australia missed the chance to apply a stranglehold on the competition by putting themselves in a position where winning their last game would have given them the title.


"We've left the door open, so [it's] obviously a big game between New Zealand and Argentina next week. We'll have a pretty clear idea of what we've got to do in the last week," he said.


Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said while being proud of his side, they had not been clinical and they hadn't had a lot of shape to their game.


"They are pretty disappointed with their performance but they just don't realise how hard it is to play against the All Blacks and being drained emotionally and physically. There was a difficult start to the week and [to] play against a fresh Australia team who had the week off and had a great game plan," he said.


He thought Australia's plan to tire them out was working, especially by pushing the ball wide several times, but Argentina had hung in.


Not having played for so long, had been hard, and recovery before playing against the All Blacks would be important.


There were a lot of niggling injuries among their players after the Australia game, he said.


There would probably be changes in personnel against the All Blacks because they needed to freshen up, he said.



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