The All Blacks scored four tries to beat Argentina 28-9 in Napier on Saturday, reports SIMON BORCHARDT.
While the predicted rain did fall early in the game, it soon cleared up. New Zealand, though, still had to work hard for their bonus-point win and were never able to cut loose.
In fact, the final margin could have been a lot closer had French referee Pascal Gauzère not disallowed a perfectly legitimate Pumas try at the end of the third quarter that would have made it 18-13. Argentina will also regret letting in a try on the stroke of half-time after their otherwise impressive pack conceded a tighthead.
However, the Pumas were fortunate not to be reduced to 14 men on the four-minute mark when Julian Savea was tackled without the ball by Horacio Agulla following a chip kick from Beauden Barrett.
Barrett missed his first penalty attempt, and the Pumas came close to scoring at the other end when Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe lost possession just before the line in the left-hand corner. Soon after, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino's long-range drop goal went just wide.
Barrett and Nicolás Sánchez then exchanged penalties, before the former sparked the first try of the game, in the 27th minute, with a clever grubber through the Pumas defensive line. Brodie Retallick did well to dive on the ball and regain possession, with the All Blacks going wide to Conrad Smith, whose left-footed grubber saw Savea go over in the left-hand corner.
Sánchez kicked a penalty to make it 8-6 but his drop-goal attempt was off target.
The All Blacks then struck a big blow as the half-time hooter sounded when they won a tighthead on the Pumas 10m line. Barrett broke away into the 22m and gave the try-scoring pass to Liam Messam on his inside.
Barrett also had a hand in his team's third try, early in the second half, when quick lineout ball allowed the flyhalf to send Savea away. The All Blacks then butchered a try when Israel Dagg's long pass went straight into touch instead of to an unmarked Ben Smith.
Argentina should have narrowed the gap to five points when Leonardo Senatore charged down a Ma'a Nonu kick and raced away to score, but the referee bizarrely ruled that the No 8 had knocked on.
While the Pumas did get some reward for that period of dominance with a Sánchez penalty, it was cancelled out soon after by Colin Slade, who had replaced Barrett.
The All Blacks then secured the bonus point with eight minutes to go, when Kieran Read broke from the back of a 5m scrum and put Aaron Smith away under the posts.
All Blacks – Tries: Julian Savea (2), Liam Messam, Aaron Smith. Conversion: Colin Slade. Penalties: Beauden Barrett, Slade.
Argentina – Penalties: Nicolás Sánchez (3).
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Matias Cortese, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Juan Imhoff.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images