The All Blacks secured a 39-18 bonus-point win over Argentina in the opening match of the Rugby Championship in Christchurch on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Three tries in the space of 10 minutes, just before and after half-time, helped the All Blacks along their merry way to a comprehensive victory.
A depleted All Blacks side battled their way to a hard-fought win over Samoa last week, and while they didn’t operate at full muster for various periods of Friday’s clash, it didn’t stop them from making a statement of intent.
Neither side was at full strength, with some key players being afforded another week’s rest, but ultimately Argentina simply couldn’t contend with the physicality and intensity of the world champions.
While the Pumas did their level best to scrap and compete at the breakdown, it was clear they couldn’t live with the All Blacks when they managed to up the tempo of the game.
That fact was evident during the final play of the first half as superb continuity and handling, coupled with a muscular finish from centre Ma’a Nonu, saw the Kiwis open up an 18-6 lead at the break.
It was a crushing blow that served to dissolve Argentina’s resolve, with All Blacks wing Charles Piutau and flank Kieran Read scoring just after the resumption of play to hand the Kiwis a try-scoring bonus point before 50 minutes had been played.
At 32-6, there was no way back for Argentina, but to their credit they responded with two impressive tries from lineout drives as captain Agustin Creevy dotted down twice around the hour mark.
Make no mistake, the All Blacks’ fragile defence in this department is something that wouldn’t have escaped the attention of Springbok lineout general Victor Matfield.
Argentina’s two-try burst proved to be just a temporary reprieve, though, as All Blacks replacement Codie Taylor dived over in the 71st minute, which would be the final score of the game.
The first clear-cut try-scoring opportunity had come on the quarter-hour mark as the All Blacks produced a beautiful passage of play that forced Argentina into desperate scramble defence.
With the pressure beginning to tell, the hosts opted to kick a penalty to the corner, and from the subsequent lineout Richie McCaw burrowed over to score the opening try.
It took the All Blacks out to an 11-3 lead, with flyhalf Dan Carter having kicked a couple of penalties on either side of a three-pointer from opposite number Nicolas Sanchez in the 12th minute, with the Pumas pivot adding another just after half an hour.
Making their final Test appearances in front of their Christchurch home crowd, Carter and McCaw marked the occasion with typically composed performances in an impressive all-round team effort.
All Blacks – Tries: Richie McCaw, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor. Conversions: Dan Carter (5). Penalties: Dan Carter (2).
Argentina – Tries: Agustin Creevy (2). Conversion: Nicolas Sanchez. Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (2).
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Dan Carter, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 11 Cordero Santiago, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 5 Guido Petti Pagadizabal, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Nahuel Chaparro Tetaz, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images