All Blacks prevail in poor conditions
September 7, 2013
Aaron Smith celebrates his first try with Julian Savea
© Getty Images
New Zealand overcame difficult conditions and combative opponents to maintain their unbeaten record in The Rugby Championship with victory over Argentina at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. They scored three tries to one in clinching the win, with scrum-half Aaron Smith getting a double, but victory came at a cost with Richie McCaw limping off with a knee injury in the 60th minute of his 119th Test.
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Andy Withers
Argentina showed plenty of spirit, their first scrum a statement of intent with a big shove, and they took a shock lead in the fifth minute with a try from Juan Manuel Leguizamon. All Blacks inside centre Francis Saili made an unfortunate start to his debut Test, dropping the ball in his own 22, and the Pumas swooped. Five passes later, Leguizamon crossed unopposed for a try converted by Nicolas Sanchez. But they were hurt by the first-half sin-binning of hooker Eusebio Guinazu, for breakdown infringements, and a dysfunctional lineout that resulted in a number of lost throws.
The All Blacks replied with a Dan Carter penalty, a goal that made him the first player to pass 1400 Test points, but he missed two further attempts, one hitting a post, before the Pumas suffered their yellow-card setback that changed the course of the match.
New Zealand took advantage of Guinazu's absence to run in Smith's two tries. The first came from a lineout after they had turned down the shot at goal after the sin-binning, and Kieran Read produced an outrageous offload to send Smith over. The second try came after a huge break from deep by Carter, back from a calf injury for just his second Test of the year. Ben Smith kicked ahead after the ball had been worked wide and Aaron Smith was on hand to pounce on the loose ball and touch down for his second try as the rain arrived to make conditions slippery.
The Pumas closed the gap to five points at 15-10 with a Sanchez penalty just before half-time, and Carter and Sanchez traded penalties early in the second stanza before Read again made a vital intrusion.
He charged down a kick from the back of the Argentina scrum and regather the ball to spark a slick backline move that saw Julian Savea score his 14th try in 14th Tests.
Flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe led the Pumas superbly on his return from injury, but he was fortunate not to be sin-binned for a professional foul when he pulled back Saili without the ball to concede the penalty that substitute five-eighth Beauden Barrett knocked over to complete the scoring.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praised his players for exerting their own physicality in securing the victory, saying "the forwards played really good" against tough opponents".
"It wasn't a night for the backs, it was really difficult .. but I think there's enough positives there to look forward to next week," Hansen said.
Argentina coach Santiago Phelan said his team had gone into the game believing they could pull off an upset, but each error against opposition of the quality of the All Blacks was expensive. "Overall we were competitive in every aspect of the game," he said. "They were more clinical than us and that's something we need to keep improving."
Francis Saili grew into the game after a slow start in Hamilton © Getty Images
New Zealand found Argentina no pushover in Hamilton (video available only in Australia)