The All Blacks were held scoreless in the second half, but still managed to grind out a 20-16 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In the opening game of the Rugby Championship, the Springboks laid down a real marker when they secured a bonus-point win over the Wallabies despite fielding what was largely seen as a ‘second-string’ side.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had also opted to field a somewhat experimental side against Argentina, and when one considered the success of the Jaguares in Vodacom Super Rugby, it was always expected to be a highly competitive battle in Buenos Aires.
It turned out to be just that, with the All Blacks holding on to a tenuous four-point lead for the majority of a second half in which they spent plenty of time on defence.
When one considers just how lethal the All Blacks usually are with ball in hand, they will be bitterly disappointed by this disjointed performance, although it should give the Boks even more reason to believe they could have a real shot at victory when the two teams meet in a Wellington rematch next weekend.
In the dramatic final stages of the clash in Argentina, the Pumas twice kicked the ball to the corner and set up attacking 5m lineouts in search of a historic victory, but ultimately couldn’t find the means to break down the All Blacks’ defence.
Earlier, the visitors had headed into half time with an undeniably fortuitous 20-9 lead, with Brodie Retallick snapping up an intercept to score a 50m try in the 39th minute.
Re-live Brodie Retallick’s sensational intercept! 😍
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 20, 2019
However, soon after the restart, Argentina cut the deficit back to just four points after a cross kick from Nicolas Sanchez set up a key try for Emiliano Boffelli.
From there, both teams had opportunities to strike key blows, but lacked the necessary finishing, with the All Blacks ultimately holding on for victory.
Argentina – Try: Emiliano Boffelli. Conversion: Nicolas Sanchez. Penalties: Sanchez (2). Boffelli.
All Blacks – Tries: Ngani Laumape, Brodie Retallick. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Argentina – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Joaquín Tuculet.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Jordie Barrett, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Photo: Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images