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All Blacks hold off fiery Pumas

Sat, 08 Sep 2012 09:28
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The Pumas left Westpac Stadium without any log points, but with plenty of pride
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The All Blacks needed a late surge to secure a shaky 21-5 victory over a fiery Pumas side in a wet and windy Wellington on Saturday.

New Zealand's two tries only came late in the game as Argentina's challenge started to fade, which meant that the Pumas left Westpac Stadium without any log points, but with plenty of pride after making their highly-rated opponents work hard for their victory.

The home side struggled against a fired up Pumas outfit in conditions that suited the South American's direct style of rugby and were given the fright of their lives in the opening forty minutes, but a more accurate display in the second half saw them secure a hard-earned triumph.

Despite the tough conditions the All Blacks sent the ball wide at the first opportunity where they found quite a lot of open space, and when Pumas flank Juan Manuel Leguizamon went offside in front of his tryline the difficulty of the conditions was revealed as Aaron Cruden's penlty attempt was blown wide of the poles.

The visitors asserted their authority in the first scrum which gave them a great attacking opportunity, but they duly felt the brunt of the conditions as the slippery ball was lost at the line-out.

The All Blacks got on the scoreboard shortly afterwards when Julio Farias Cabello was blown up for not rolling away in the tackle in front of the poles and Cruden made no mistake to give his side a 3-0 lead.

The Pumas responded by surging into opposition territory where they applied the pressure on the home side who were forced to play from their own 22. Ma'a Nonu was rocked back in a solid tackle and lost possession which gave the Pumas the sniff they needed, and it was veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero who forced his way over for the try in the right corner to give his side the lead at 5-3.

The All Blacks tried to tighten things up by launching a few driving mauls in the opposition 22, but Argentina were playing with real determination and their defence held firm to repel the world champions.

Although the Pumas were playing with incredible intensity and commitment New Zealand had the majority of possession and they managed to take the lead back when Cruden landed his second penalty after Leguizamon strayed offside.

Despite holding a slight advantage on the scoreboard the All Blacks were clearly rattled, and the pressure told as a number of uncharacteristic errors crept into their game which sent them into the half-time break with more than a few questions to answer in the second half.

The break was extended when the stadium lights went out, but when things did finally get underway the familiar pattern of the All Blacks carrying the ball at the stout Pumas defence resumed.

New Zealand eventually got some reward for their efforts when Patricio Albacete went off his feet, and Cruden's third penalty gave the home side a 9-5 buffer heading into the final half-hour.

After Pumas fullback Martin Rodriguez pushed a penalty attempt wide the All Blacks snapped into gear on attack and a break from captain Richie McCaw put them in the opposition 22 where Julio Farias Cabello was shown a yellow card for an early tackle.

With an extra man the All Blacks started tightening the screws, and showed good patience in the build-up to their first try which was scored by Julian Savea after the wily Conrad Smith had sucked in a few defenders.

With that crucial blow the All Blacks found some good momentum and it was not long before Cory Jane was able to cruise over in the right corner after a very long and very flat pass from Cruden had freed up some space on the outside.

Although the game was gone, the Pumas continued to fight and fittingly ended the game deep in New Zealand territory after putting together an encouraging display that will have earned them plenty of respect.

Man of the match: Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe had another huge game, and flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez was equally impressive, but the key player in the All Blacks' resurgence was classy centre Conrad Smith who gets our vote.

Moment of the match: Rodrigo Roncero is one of the elder statesmen of world rugby at 35 years old, and his delight was evident when he got the ball over the line from close quarters to score the opening try.

Villain of the match: The person responsible (if blame can be apportioned to any individual) for the stadium lights going out at half-time which delayed the start of the second half.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries: Savea, Jane
Con: Cruden
Pens: Cruden 3

For Argentina:
Try: Roncero

Yellow card: Farias Cabello (58 mins, early tackle)

Teams:

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Ben Smith.

Argentina: 15 Martin Rodriguez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Tomás Leonardi, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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