The All Blacks have survived their first Test of the year with a narrow 20-16 victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires which could easily have been a defeat and perhaps should have been (writes Patrick McKendry of the New Zealand Herald).
At the end they were clinging on at Estadio Jose Amalfitani and greeted referee Angus Gardner’s final whistle with huge relief after escaping two attacking lineouts in the final seconds. The Pumas will rue their missed opportunity for they have never beaten the All Blacks and won’t get a better chance for a long time.
The All Blacks were missing all of their Crusaders players, apart from debutants Sevu Reece, who started on the right wing, and replacement back Braydon Ennor, and that lack of quality and experience showed in the second half as the visitors were held scoreless.
The Pumas appeared fatigued in the first half and looked out of it at half-time, but a converted try to Emiliano Boffelli after the break changed the dynamic of the match. If first-five Nicolas Sanchez had kicked a relatively easy penalty soon after the All Blacks would have been in even bigger trouble.
“It was the definition of a test match, a real ding dong battle,” skipper Sam Cane said straight afterwards. “They came out firing and I thought our discipline was poor at times. But massive credit to Argentina, they put us under pressure from the first whistle to the end of the game.”
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The All Blacks were loose at times with their handling and concession of silly penalties, and questions may be asked about an overly elaborate attacking move on halfway with three minutes left which handed possession back to the home side.
But their defence was outstanding, with Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea leading the way, and it’s that grit and desperation to hold out a fast-finishing team in a hostile environment which should please coach Steve Hansen the most.
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“We found out a lot of things and most of them are pretty positive,” Hansen said. “That was pleasing. We knew we’d be rusty and we were… most of them put their hands up.”
The All Blacks were in control at half-time after scoring two converted tries via Ngani Laumape and Brodie Retallick.
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They showed variation on attack and a depth and breadth of game which appeared on a different level to the Jaguares-laden Pumas, who brought line speed and intensity on defence, but not too much in the way of creativity.
ARGENTINA: Emiliano Boffelli; Matías Moroni, Matías Orlando, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolás Sánchez, Tomás Cubelli; Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera (capt), Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Juan Figallo, Agustín Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Reps: Julián Montoya, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Matías Alemanno, Tomás Lezana, Felipe Ezcurra, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Joaquín Tuculet.
Scorers – Try: Boffelli, Pens: Sanchez 2, Boffelli, Con: Sanchez
ALL BLACKS: Ben Smith; Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Jordie Barrett; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (capt), Vaea Fifita, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta’avao, Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi. Reps: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Josh Ioane, Braydon Ennor.
Scorers – Laumape, Rettalick, Pens: B Barrett 2, Cons: B Barrett 2.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia).
– New Zealand Herald
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