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All Blacks make a statement with big win over Los Pumas

By Finn Morton
Beauden Barrett of New Zealand celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during a Rugby Championship match between Argentina Pumas and New Zealand All Blacks at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on July 08, 2023 in Mendoza, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

With two months to go until the opening match of this year’s Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks have sent a message to their international rivals by beating Argentina 41-12 in Mendoza.

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Having flown into South America on Sunday, the All Blacks held three confidence-building training sessions at Marista Rugby Club in the south of the city during the week.

But it was all leading to this. As days turned into nights, and after the annoyance of jet lag had worn off, the All Blacks were raring to go by the time their first Test of 2023 got underway.

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Playing in front of a sold-out crowd at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, on a perfect day too, the All Blacks laid down their challenge with a rousing rendition of Kapo o Pango before the opening whistle.

But the vibrant crowd wasn’t going to be kept quiet. These fans sent their own challenge to the visiting side as an almost deafening cheer echoed throughout the stadium before kick-off.

With a blow of the whistle from referee Angus Gardner, the Test was underway. Finally, after months of waiting, international rugby was back for these two proud sporting nations.

Pumas flyhalf Santiago Carreras kicked off proceedings, much to the delight of the home crowd – but even they were left stunned following an early moment of madness.

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All Blacks playmaker Damian McKenzie attempted to clear the ball on his own line, but the clearance was met by a wave of Pumas defenders – led by inspirational flanker Pablo Matera.

Matera managed to catch the All Blacks on the back foot with a charge down, and came within mere millimetres of opening the scoring after lunging out for the ball in desperation.

All this happened within the first 27 seconds of the Test.

But after going upstairs, referee Gardner and the TMO agreed that no try had been scored. The All Blacks would’ve breathed a collective sigh of relief as they lined up for an early goal-line dropout.

It took the All Blacks more than four minutes to touch the ball inside Los Pumas’ half, but once they did, they weren’t going to be denied.

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After a tough start to the match, the All Blacks beast as we know it had woken up.

Following a momentum-shifting line break from outside centre Rieko Ioane, the New Zealanders piled on the phases. In the end, hooker Dane Coles ran in for the first try of Test.

McKenzie, who revealed earlier this week that he had been given the goal-kicking duties, sent his first shot wide right – an attempt that was seemingly a regulation shot. But the score remained at 5-nil, much to the surprise, amusement and enjoyment of the home crowd.

Just three minutes later, following wave after wave of the All Blacks’ relentlessness in attack, powerful loose forward Ardie Savea dove over for the second try of the afternoon. Again, McKenzie couldn’t add the extras.

The All Blacks truly began to take control of this contest later in the half though, with two of the Barrett brothers linking up for a long-range effort.

With Pumas fullback Emiliano Boffelli down on the left side of the field, Beauden and Jordie made the most of their one-man advantage on the right. Beauden made the break from inside his own half, and Jordie reaped the rewards.

All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Aaron Smith added another try each before the end of the first term, with the visitors taking an emphatic 31-nil lead into the half-time break.

Coming into the second half, if you didn’t know the score, you never would’ve believed that Argentina were down by 31.

Walking back up the steps and onto the field in Mendoza, Los Pumas were met with a hopeful cheer by the home crowd.

But the Pumas needed to score first – and so nearly did. No more than three minutes into the half, flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez knocked the ball on in a tackle, only for the hosts to go on and practically score.

When referee Gardner called the play back, the home crowd weren’t amused. They made their confusion and frustration known to all.

But the show must go on. The Argentines continued to throw everything they could at the All Blacks, and were eventually rewarded for their efforts.

Just when the crowd couldn’t get any louder, tighthead prop Lucio Sordoni scored Los Pumas’ first points about 52 minutes into the match. The passionate fans were thrilled.

To paint the picture, it was one of those moments where you can’t help but think, ‘This is more than just a game.’ Even with such a one-sided scoreline, there wasn’t an empty seat in the stands.

The All Blacks hit back shortly after though, and managed to silence the crowd – if only for a moment. McKenzie made a stunning line break, and served a try on a silver platter for fullback Barrett.

Suddenly, the All Blacks were leading 36-5.

After making some changes, including swapping Crusaders star Richie Mo’unga for Beauden Barrett, the All Blacks continued to show their class in the final quarter.

Off the back of some solid defence, the New Zealanders added one more try to their score and it was a special one. Winger Emoni Narawa helped scored a try on debut, which extended the advantage to 36-points.

But, much to the delight of the crowd, veteran Agustin Creevy reached out for a last-minute score. Los Pumas had the last laugh.

The All Blacks sit in second place on The Rugby Championship standings after the opening round, with South Africa also recording a big win over Australia earlier on Saturday.

Argentina 12 (tries: Sordoni)

New Zealand 41 (tries: Coles, Savea, J Barrett, Ioane, Smith, B Barrett, Narawa; conversions: McKenzie 3/7)

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10 Comments
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Flankly 372 days ago

Not surprised that the ABs won, but the Pumas poor defense in the first half was unexpected.

Bok/AB showdown next week will be one of the most interesting pre-RWC games. Both teams have confidence and momentum, and high probability that one of them will be the 2023 RWC champions. Great that the RWC pressure is on France and Ireland, btw.

If I had to bet on the Sat game I would back the ABs, with home field advantage. But it will probably be a game of inches, with a narrow winning margin.

Expect a tactical battle. Its not about selections or general competence/form, but about out-thinking and detailed execution. Both teams will be pleased to have this weeks tape to analyse.

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Pecos 372 days ago

Bloody hell, we beat them 53-3 the last time we played them. This is a game we should always win. Zero statement made imo. Beating the Boks next week? Now that would be a statement!!!!!

c
carlos 373 days ago

I can't believe the Pumas had such a weak passive game. Lots of passion without thought. Very sad. And it was clear that the front row would not be able to sustain the Pumas scrum. Pumas made it easy to the ABs. They even managed to get Rieko to pass the ball. Imagine that!

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Pedro 373 days ago

I can admit when I'm wrong.. There was a lot in it... A dominant performance from the AB's.. Will curb my excitement till next week.. S. A looking good..

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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