The All Blacks beat Argentina 35-17 in Buenos Aires on Saturday to claim their third straight Rugby Championship title. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
After New Zealand’s shock defeat to the Springboks a fortnight ago, the team to face them next was always going to bear the brunt of the All Blacks’ wrath. Unfortunately for Argentina, they were it.
The game in the Argentinian capital was a niggly contest from start to finish. But ultimately, it was the All Blacks’ superiority in the forward exchanges and their resolute defence that set the platform for this one-sided outcome.
Openside flank Sam Cane and the front row of Ofa Tuungafasi, Codie Taylor and Karl Tu’inukuafe impressed, two-try hero Rieko Ioane was prominent and flyhalf Beauden Barrett picked himself up after his indifferent showing against the Boks, to produce a flawless kicking performance.
As for Argentina, the rapid disintegration of their set piece, the one facet of the game they’ve always prided themselves on, should be of grave concern for coach Mario Ledesma only 12 months out from the World Cup.
After Nicolás Sánchez had kicked the hosts into an early 3-0 lead, the All Blacks settled into a rhythm and seized control of the game with three superb tries scored by wings Ioane and Waisake Naholo to take a 21-3 lead.
Argentina came into some ball possession and when Sonny Bill Williams saw yellow for streaking offside after the All Blacks had just been given a team warning for repeated infringements, the hosts had a chance to close the half out with some points. But a great midfield run by Guido Petti came to nothing as the opportunity was spurned with a knock on in the red zone.
Soon after the restart, poor decision-making cost Argentina again. Sánchez challenged the All Blacks’ line and broke through, drawing a shoulder charge from a wrong-footed Barrett. But from the subsequent penalty, Sánchez delivered a terribly executed kick-pass that went straight to Naholo, allowing the visitors to easily clear their lines.
Lock Patrick Tuipulotu’s score then ensured that the All Blacks would get a bonus-point win.
Down 28-3, Argentina rallied back and were rewarded with two tries. But fittingly, the All Blacks had the final say when replacement Anton Lienert-Brown chased down Richie Mo’unga’s grubber kick for their fifth and final try.
Argentina – Tries: Tomas Cubelli, Emiliano Boffelli. Conversions: Nicolás Sánchez (2). Penalty: Sánchez.
All Blacks – Tries: Rieko Ioane (2), Waisake Naholo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Anton Lienert-Brown. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (4), Richie Mo’unga.
Argentina – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Matías Moroni, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortego Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Augustin Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Matías Orlando, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images