When Argentina beat Australia on Friday, they scored two penalty tries from scrums, generally outmuscling the hosts with a combative, territorial approach.
At least initially those tactics appeared to unsettle New Zealand. However, they were more physically resolute than their Aussie counterparts, Argentina eventually wilting.
The opening quarter was cagey, Argentina intent on playing force-back, New Zealand more ambitious, but lacking accuracy.
Argentina opened the scoring when New Zealand were pinged for collapsing a scrum. An error from the kick-off however allowed Lucas Cashmore to swiftly level the ledger.
Cashmore doubled New Zealand’s advantage with a second success from 25-metres after 26 minutes.
New Zealand openside Hayden Michaels was yellow carded for a lifting tackle in the 34th minute. Tomás Suárez Folch punished that indiscretion with a penalty and then nailed a 38-metre shot as Los Pumitas took a 9-6 lead a minute before the break.
New Zealand didn’t panic, salvaging the restart. Strong carries from hooker George Bell and lock Jamie Hannah eventually saw wing Jake Te Hiwi wriggle over for a try. The sideline conversion from Cashmore made it 13-9 at halftime.
The score didn’t change for fifteen minutes in the second-half, but clean breaks by halfback Noah Hotham and loosehead prop Josh Bartlett suggested Argentina was fatiguing.
Eventually Los Pumitas cracked when blindside Oliver Haig went sailing clear in the right corner. Second five-eighth Jone Rova had opened up Argentina with a left foot step on the opposite side.
The New Zealand bench added plenty of intensity and a barnstorming 30-metre charge by Peter Lakai paved the way for reserve halfback Joel Lam to touchdown. A quick snipe and pass off the ground by centre Riley Higgins was also crucial in the construction.
Wing Macca Springer had the last say, palming aside a handful of defenders in a 25-metre surge.
New Zealand conceded four breakdown turnovers in the first-half, remedying that weakness at the interval. The scrum was a real triumph, suppressing Argentina’s most potent weapon. The all-round forward effort was very satisfactory.
Fullback Harry Godfrey was perhaps the pick of the backs. He kicked a 50/22, delivered the last pass for a try, and handled multiple times with polish.
The last time New Zealand played Argentina in an U20 international was at the 2015 World Cup. New Zealand narrowly won 32-29.
New Zealand can seal a fifth Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship title with victory in their final fixture against Australia on Sunday.
New Zealand Under 20 32 (Jake Te Hiwi, Oliver Haig, Joel Lam, Macca Springer tries; Lucas Cashmore 2 pen, Cam Miller 3 con) Argentina U20 9 (Tomás Suárez Folch 3 pen)