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All Blacks blitz Pumas to book place in Rugby World Cup final

By Finn Morton
Aaron Smith of New Zealand celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's fourth try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

SAINT-DENIS – With the hopes of a rugby-mad nation resting firmly on their shoulders, the All Blacks have overcome pressure, scrutiny and a historic pool stage defeat to book their place in the Rugby World Cup final.

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New Zealand secured their spot in the big dance for the fifth time after overcoming a valiant Los Pumas outfit 44-6 in Friday’s semi-final at Stade de France on a surprisingly dry night north of Paris.

As hours turned into minutes and the countdown for this highly anticipated knockout clash between two great southern hemisphere rivals continued to tick by, fans made their way into the Saint-Denis venue in their droves.

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The Argentina fans set the tone with some passionate cheers and cries of support before the Test, but the All Blacks had thousands of supporters in their corner – only they seemed to be stewing in a state of nervous excitement as both teams made their way out onto the field.

Referee Angus Gardner called for time-on soon after, with Argentina playmaker Santiago Carreras kicking off the Test, but the All Blacks stumbled at their first hurdle.

Much as they did in last weekend’s blockbuster quarter-final against Ireland at the very same venue, the All Blacks looked nervous – far from what fans from the world over have come to expect.

Fullback Beauden Barrett cleared the ball from the kick-off, but it was a meaningless kick at best. Los Pumas mounted an impressive attack in return and it so nearly paid off for them. But a wasteful kick from Carreras gifted the New Zealanders a lifeline.

Knockout

New Zealand
South Africa
11 - 12
Final
Argentina
New Zealand
6 - 44
SF1
England
South Africa
15 - 16
SF2
Wales
Argentina
17 - 29
QF1
Ireland
New Zealand
24 - 28
QF2
England
Fiji
30 - 24
QF3
France
South Africa
28 - 29
QF4

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New Zealand kicked again, but it was another poor exit from a Barrett – this time it was Jordie. The All Blacks were under more needless pressure.

Following waves of relentless attack, the Pumas took the lead through an Emiliano Boffelli penalty goal in just the fourth minute. The All Blacks were stunned, sure, but only for a moment. Test rugby is a marathon, not a sprint, after all.

Following a series of penalties after Argentina, New Zealand went on to score the opening try of the Test through electric wing Will Jordan. Playing with an advantage, flyhalf Richie Mo’unga threw a lofty cut-out pass to send his former Crusaders teammate over for the score.

Jordan played a key role in another try just five minutes later by sending Jordie Barrett over for a score in the corner.

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The All Blacks latched firmly onto their hard-fought lead, and while they didn’t concede any points for almost 20 minutes, the New Zealanders didn’t score any either.

Possession was split down the middle at 50/50 with the 30-minute mark rapidly approaching, but the Pumas statistically dominated the territory battle.

Argentina had their best try-scoring opportunity of the night late in the first term with Los Pumas building some well-worked attacking pressure with the try-line in sight. But their efforts were in vain.

The All Blacks’ rock-solid defensive wall stood firm as Los Pumas struggled to break through – but they didn’t walk away empty-handed. Another penalty to Emiliano Boffelli reduced Argentina’s deficit to just six points.

With half-time rapidly approaching, the semi-final battle tipped in the All Blacks’ favour once again as Mo’unga nailed a penalty in the 37th minute.

Attack

182
Passes
214
153
Ball Carries
167
340m
Post Contact Metres
437m
6
Line Breaks
11

Shortly after, wing Mark Telea beat a handful of Argentine defenders to gift the New Zealanders one more try-scoring opportunity before the break. Flanker Shannon Frizell, rather casually, danced over out wide for the All Blacks’ third and final try of the first half.

But the All Blacks were even better after the break, and it quickly became clear that the full-time result was simply never in doubt.

Halfback Aaron Smith beat a couple of defenders to score a brilliant individual try just after the break. That score, it must be said, seed to suck the life out of the Los Pumas’ usually vocal supporters who were not sat firmly in their seats.

With the New Zealanders continuing to control the narrative on this fateful Paris night, they struck again through a familiar face in Shannon Frizell. The flanker had a double in a World Cup semi-final after crashing over from a pick-and-drive.

The All Blacks began to make some substitutions as they appeared to have almost certainly booked their place in the big dance. Codie Taylor was first, and then coach Ian Foster made mass changes – fullback Beauden Barrett jogged off with a well-earned smile.

While Scott Barrett was yellow-carded late in the piece, it was New Zealand’s night, and that wasn’t in doubt.

Another two tries to wing Will Jordan in the 61st and 74th minutes saw the All Blacks complete their dominant 38-point win over Los Pumas.

The horrors, heartbreak and disappointment of the 2019 semi-final defeat to England had been put to rest. For the third time at four Rugby World Cups, the All Blacks are off to the final.

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J
Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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