Buenos Aires - A depleted New Zealand survived a second-half onslaught from Argentina to win their Rugby Championship first round match 20-16 in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
As it happened: Argentina v New Zealand
After trailing by 11 points at half-time, the Pumas kept the All
Blacks scoreless in the second half only to fail narrowly in their quest
for a first victory over the world champions.
New Zealand chalked up a 450th Test win despite resting many of the
Canterbury Crusaders stars who won a third consecutive Super Rugby title
two weeks ago.
Clinical finishing helped the All Blacks to a 20-9 half-time
advantage, but the Pumas scored early in the second half to leave just
four points separating the teams.
Playmaker Nicolas Sanchez missed a kickable penalty soon after that
would have reduced the gap to a single point before a large, passionate
A measure of the dominance of the hosts was that it took the visiting
side 33 minutes of the second half to get into the Argentine 22.
At the death, the Pumas forced two lineouts close to the All Blacks
line, but the try that would have given them a historic victory proved
New Zealand gave first caps to run-on winger Sevu Reece and
substitutes Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson and Braydon Ennor, and coach Steve
Hansen was generally pleased.
"I observed a lot of things, and most of them were positive," said the 2015 World Cup-winning coach.
"These are young guys and they were thrust into Test rugby in one of the most intimidating sporting environments in the world.
"We were rusty at times which can be partly explained by the fact that we were testing new combinations.
"I thought our defending was outstanding,
but we let a few scoring opportunities slip. We will grow from here in
the Rugby Championship."
Argentina made an encouraging start with Sanchez and Emiliano
Boffelli slotting penalties inside seven minutes for a six-point lead at
Estadio Jose Amalfitani.
The home team squandered a chance to increase the advantage when a
brilliant Reece tackle on Marcos Kremer forced the Puma flanker to
knock-on with the line at his mercy.
New Zealand scored the first of two opening-half tries on 18 minutes
with Ngani Laumape powering over between the posts after a quick Aaron
Smith tap penalty.
Beauden Barrett converted and the All Blacks had a 7-6 advantage that
lasted only two minutes before a second Sanchez penalty nudged
Argentina ahead again.
But those proved to be the last points scored by the South Americans
in the half as New Zealand took control to add 13 unanswered points
through a converted try and two penalties.
Brodie Retallick scored the try and Barrett kicked the conversion and
two penalties to take him past 600 points in his Test career.
The try, a minute before half-time, stunned the home crowd as
Retallick intercepted a Sanchez pass and ran unchallenged to the line.
It was a bitter blow for Argentina, who did not deserve to be trailing by 11 points as they ran off the field.
Argentina need to strike first in the second half to get back into
contention and they did on 47 minutes when Boffelli won an aerial duel
with Ben Smith and scored.
Sanchez, the architect of the try with a perfectly weighted lofted kick toward the tryline, converted.
In next weekend's Round 2 action, the All Blacks host the Springboks in a mouth-watering clash in Wellington (Saturday, July 27 at 09:35 SA time), While Argentina travel to Brisbane to play the Wallabies (Saturday, July 27 at 11:45 SA time).
READ: Springbok ratings: Give that No 9 ... a nine!
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli; 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Joaquin Tuculet
15 Ben Smith, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Jordie Barrett, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Braydon Ennor