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Argentina's win a carbon copy of their last win over the All Blacks

By Ben Smith
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 27: Marcos Kremer of Argentina and Tomas Lavinini of Argentina celebrate during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina Pumas at Orangetheory Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Argentina’s second ever victory over the All Blacks, and first over New Zealand on home soil, was essentially a carbon copy of their 2020 win.

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In that 25-15 win at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez scored an opportunist try and kicked six penalties and one conversion.

On a chilly night in Christchurch, the Pumas grabbed their one try off a botched kick receipt from the restart through blindside Juan Martin Gonzalez and winger Emiliano Boffelli kicked six penalties and one conversion.

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And again, it was on defence where they really put the All Blacks under pressure.

Los Pumas were hellbent on crushing the All Blacks on the ground, completing a mammoth number of tackles to suffocate the home side.

Their 192 tackles from 200 attempts was more than double that of the All Blacks, who were asked to complete 92 and made 85.

Most impressive from Argentina was their discipline in executing their defensive scheme, making the correct reads before swallowing the ball carriers.

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The patient but brutal defence caused headaches at the breakdown and in contact all night long.

They allowed the All Blacks to move the ball behind the gain line while maintaining their own line integrity.

The All Black pods were manhandled in close quarters and when they went wide the Pumas would watch each pass go by with a keen eye before striking at the man tasked with trying to take them on.

There was simply nowhere for the ball to go once the Pumas had their grips on the carrier, stifling the offload game.

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The All Blacks had just five offloads over the entire 80 minutes as the size and strength of Tomas Lavanini, Marcos Kremer, and Pablo Matera swallowed them up.

Kremer was once again a thorn in the All Blacks side, showing immense strength to drag runners where he wanted them which created pedestrian rucks for Aaron Smith.

His match high 24 tackles was reminiscent of his performance in Sydney two years ago with 28.

It was boa constrictor-level restriction to choke off any means of promoting the ball, which kept the All Blacks opportunities to a minimum.

While the penalties flowed they weren’t for chaotic ill-discipline that has plagued the Pumas in the past.

Lock Tomas Lavanini, renown as a walking card, gave away just one indiscretion while coming up with a turnover and 12 tackles.

Pablo Matera added two turnovers much like his day out during the first win over the All Blacks when he had three.

There were just two clean breaks the entire game for the home side.

The first was a rare mistake as Boffelli was caught pushing out and centre Rieko Ioane played a well-timed short ball to Jordie Barrett who attacked the inside shoulder of the Argentinian wing.

That edge wasn’t tested enough by the All Blacks who continued to carry into the teeth of a strong Pumas pack too often.

When the pods started to interlink with passing, it did make inroads and George Bower made a half-break, but the Pumas quickly gained back ascendency and forced a turnover.

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The All Blacks had flashes of counter-attack on kick returns but the Pumas did not hand them turnover opportunities with smart game management and execution by flyhalf Santiago Carreras.

The phase play was all too predictable by Foster’s side. They played a narrow game, unlike the way they stretched the Springboks at Ellis Park, and paid the price for it.

For the majority of the time the pod system is continuing to look outdated and ineffective and needs to be rethought and perhaps scrapped.

It isn’t creating quick ball the way the All Blacks want and when met with a ferocious pack like Argentina, often comes off second best.

It is very easy to handle carries of the ruck for a pack with monstrous specimens like Los Pumas.

The All Blacks do not play most phases off 10 anymore like the way they did with Dan Carter, as is the way with most sides these days.

But if they were to revive old patterns that played a bit deeper and through the hands of the first five, increased the passes per phase and found the loosies out wide more frequently, what would happen to these beefed up front lines?

Playing deep is possible as long as the runners bring pace onto the ball and maintain a forward momentum, which has been absent until recently by the All Blacks.

Static ball deep is a disaster, but an attack that engages a line before playing deep will start to cause a staggering press.

In any case, the one-out runners off 9 game has become so stale it fails to offer much for a defence to think about, particularly when the carry and clean is not your strength.

Argentina absorbed everything that the All Blacks had planned to throw at them on the night and excellent goal kicking got them home.

They will do it again in seven days time if the All Blacks rock up with the same plans.

If they fail to adjust, they could lose another home series and their season would really be in tatters.

Los Pumas have found a formula that works and it produced for the second time in nearly the exact same fashion as it did two years ago.

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