AFP/Hamilton, New Zealand
A devastating late surge broke Argentina’s resistance as New Zealand powered to a 57-22 victory to keep their Rugby Championship title bid on track yesterday.
The All Blacks scored eight tries to one but it was not until Ryan Crotty crossed 13 minutes into the second half that they gained command at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium.
With the score at 24-22, Crotty’s try sparked a 33-point spree in the closing 27 minutes of the match.
By full time the dominance was clear-cut, but after strolling to victory twice over Australia in the opening rounds of the tournament, the All Blacks this time found a more formidable opponent until the Pumas ran out of steam.
Coach Steve Hansen said the All Blacks were forced to rethink their game plan at half-time.
“We went back out and were a lot more effective in our roles and executing the jobs we needed to do and that put a lot of pressure on the Argentinians,” he said.
“We’ve got to go away and work better and prepare better. There’ll be one or two guys who will have a good look at how they played and be disappointed with that.”
Despite the scoreline, Pumas captain Agustin Creevy sensed his side are improving.
“For us it was a great advance that we could play against them for 50 minutes in a great way, but they can produce a difference in the last 20 minutes,” he said.
Julian Savea, Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett scored first-half tries for the All Blacks who turned with a 24-19 advantage, while Ryan Crotty scored twice and Charlie Faumuina, Smith again and Luke Romano touched down in the second half.
Argentina held the lead three times in the first spell.
The game was less than three minutes old when they scored the opening try, and while they did not cross the All Blacks line again they commanded sufficient territory to land a string of penalties.
It was not, however, the vaunted power of the Pumas pack that did the damage, but their turnovers and smart off-loads in an expansive game that stretched the All Blacks.
They scored the first try in the second minute when a deft pass from scrum-half Martin Landajo sent Santiago Cordero away on a 25-metre run to the line.
Nicolas Sanchez landed the conversion and kept the scoreboard ticking over with four penalties in the first half.
The All Blacks were keen to show they had the muscle up front and opted for scrums over close-range penalties early in the Test.
It paid dividends with a try to Savea, coming into the backline from the blindside wing, after Kieran Read had plucked the ball from the back of a scrum.
When the All Blacks slipped behind 13-7, Smith brought them back into the game with his first try after a powerful run by Savea in which the big wing steamrollered his way up to the line.
When a further Sanchez penalty restored Argentina’s lead, the All Blacks hit back with a long-range penalty by Israel Dagg and a try to Barrett.
Sanchez landed his fifth penalty early in the second half to close the gap to 24-22, but by then the Pumas were starting to tire — as the All Blacks stepped up a gear to score at better than a point a minute.
With their third win out of three, the victory kept the All Blacks on track to win the southern hemisphere championship for the fourth time in five years.
They also remain unbeaten after 23 clashes with Argentina, winning 22 and drawing one, and stretched their current unbeaten run against all sides to 14.
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