Rugby World Cup 2011
All Blacks book semis spot
Piri Weepu (AP)
Auckland - Scrumhalf Piri Weepu, entrusted with the kicking duties in the absence of Dan Carter, put New Zealand into the World Cup semi-finals with seven penalties in a 33-10 victory over Argentina here on Sunday.
Argentina's sound defence restricted New Zealand to just two tries, both in the final quarter of the game, while the Pumas crossed the line once to briefly, and against all predictions, lead in the first half.
The last of the four quarter-finals was the only one to produce the winner forecasted by the bookmakers as Weepu finished with a match haul of 21 points.
The win pits New Zealand against Australia in one semi-final after their trans-Tasman rivals knocked defending champions South Africa out of the tournament with an 11-9 win in their quarter-final earlier on Sunday.
The second semi-final between France and Wales was decided on Saturday after their victories over England and Ireland respectively.
The All Blacks were in control from the opening exchanges against Argentina, and while they were unable to score a try until the 67th minute, they were able to quickly master the reputed strength of the Argentina pack.
Man-of-the-match Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu and Brad Thorn ensured the New Zealand forwards drove into the breakdown and over the ball providing a flow of front-foot possession.
But while the All Blacks backs retained the ball for long periods, mixing cut-out passes and wrap around movements to shift Argentina's heavy pack around Eden Park, they could not penetrate the South Americans' staunch defence.
It was left to Weepu to accumulate the points starting with a 38-metre penalty in the 13th minute and doubling the score soon after when Argentina conceded a scrum penalty as their main weapon began to misfire early.
But even though they were forced on the back foot for most of the game, Argentina's defence remained rock solid and, in a rare foray into the All Blacks' half, the Pumas scored the only try of the opening 40 minutes.
Leonardo Senatore came off the back of a scrum, beat the tackle of New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and took play deep into All Blacks' territory before off-loading for a try to flanker Julio Farias Cabello, converted from the sideline by Felipe Contepomi to leave the Pumas 7-6 up.
Weepu regained the lead with two more penalties to have New Zealand 12-7 ahead at half-time.
Argentina's long-range marksman Marcelo Bosch narrowed the gap to 12-10 with a successful penalty from halfway and near the left touchline soon after the restart before the All Blacks regained momentum.
Another two Weepu penalties had the All Blacks in front at 18-10 before No 8 Kieran Read finally pierced the Pumas' defence for New Zealand's first try of the match 13 minutes from time following a series of forward rushes.
The All Blacks closed out the game with another Weepu penalty and a rare try to lock Thorn who galloped 25 metres to score after replacement flyhalf Aaron Cruden and wing Cory Jane had opened up Argentina down the right flank.
Cruden, who converted the try, was required for duty early in the match and had a sound game steering the backline after Carter's understudy, Colin Slade, left the field with a leg injury.
Tries: Keiran Reid, Brad Thorn
Penalties: Piri Weepu (7)
Conversion: Aaron Cruden
Try: Julio Farias Cabello
Conversion: Felipe Contepomi
Penalty: Marcelo Bosch
15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sonny Bill Williams, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Isaia ToeavaArgentina:
15 Martin Rodriguez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero
Substitutes: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Martin Scelzo, 18 Marcos Ayerza, 19 Alejandro Campos, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 22 Juan Imhoff