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'Pure and simple': Cheika on where Pumas went wrong in Hamilton

By Ben Smith
Richie Mo’unga of the All Blacks is tackled during a New Zealand All Blacks Captain's Run at FMG Stadium on September 02, 2022 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The magic from the Pumas history-making victory in Christchurch, the first on New Zealand soil, couldn’t be replicated a second time as the All Blacks ran rampant in a 53-3 win in Hamilton.

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Head coach Michael Cheika was frank about his side’s performance, which he described as ‘below par’ just as the All Blacks lifted their game up a notch after suffering the shock defeat a week ago.

He made no bones about the fact they were outmuscled in the contact while Argentina didn’t adjust to the conditions as much as they should have.

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“Obviously New Zealand played well, we were below par,” Cheika said.

“The combination of those two things didn’t end up well for us. I think we just lost the battle, lost the physicality. Pure and simple. You got to own it.

“In the first game we owned the physicality and in the second game we lost it. With the conditions as well, that becomes more important and the game got away from us.

“We tried to get back in it in the second half, hedge our way back. Even when we got down on their line, couldn’t just run hard and get over that line to get a try on the board to try and claw our way back.

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“You lose the physicality in this scenario and you lose the game.”

The All Blacks brought an 80-minute performance which has been a rarity this season, but despite that intensity the Pumas head coach was disappointed his side didn’t match that.

He wasn’t surprised with the response from Ian Foster’s team, who used a lot more kicking to pressure the Pumas rather than the carry-heavy approach taken in Christchurch.

“Obviously they bring intensity but it’s a two-sided equation, we can bring that back as well and we didn’t do that enough,” Cheika said.

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“So when you don’t bring it back enough, that’s what happens to you. It was not like it was a surprise.

“We just didn’t come with it, especially around the rucks, in the middle. We lost the battle in the middle and therefore lost the game.”

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Argentina had 14 turnovers compared to just six from the All Blacks, which was a big change from last week as they played a lot more ball-in-hand rugby.

They were plagued by errors at the wrong end of the field, like when lock Tomas Lavanini dropped the ball cold just after the opening kick off which gave the All Blacks prime attacking opportunity.

On whether they played too much rugby, Cheika said took responsibility for the way the Pumas tried to approach the game.

“Yes, you should become a coach mate,” he said.

“We did, definitely. I have to take some responsibility there because I’ve got to prep the guys a bit better for wet weather.

“First time we’ve played in the wet weather. Even with that, we still need to front up with the physicality in the middle of the field, which could have set the platform.

“At these levels if you go down 10 or 15, and they probably went up 15 or 20, then you will pay the penalty.”

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