All Blacks a step closer to title

Sun, 29 Sep 2013 00:53
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New Zealand took a giant step towards retaining their Rugby Championship title with a 33-15 win over Argentina in La Plata on Saturday.

New Zealand took a giant step towards retaining their Rugby Championship title with a 33-15 win over Argentina in La Plata on Saturday.

The bonus-point fourth try may only have come right on the full-time hooter, but it means the All Blacks are a single bonus point away from back-to-back titles in the Southern hemisphere showpiece.

They are now five points clear of South Africa at the top of the Rugby Championship ladder, with the two sides meeting in the tournament decider Johannesburg next Saturday.

The All Blacks led just 11-9 at half-time, but produced a far more commanding second half performance - especially as the Pumas started to run out of puff.

Argentina dominated territory and momentum the opening stages of the first half, but missed the opportunity to capitalise, missing two penalty goals.

Wing Julian Savea sprinted 60 metres to score the opening try of the game.

Hints of the side's experience and composure then began to emerge from the All Blacks in the second half.

However, The All Blacks still had to overcome some determined defensive resistance from the home team before getting the vital bonus-point try.

Awarded a penalty on the Argentina 22-metre line, New Zealand kicked for the corner, controlled the line-out ball and replacement scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow delayed a pass momentarily for Smith to charge into the line and beat the tackles of Felipe Contepomi and Nicolas Sanchez to score under the posts.

Taking control in the second half, the All Blacks controlled the tempo of the game and when they lifted the speed Argentina struggled to cope.

It was a bruising first half, with little chance for a dominance to be achieved.

Argentina's set-piece play was vastly improved on that seen in Hamilton earlier in the competition - with the line-outs tidier and the scrum as powerful and as dominant as ever.

Nicolas Sánchez (two) and Aaron Cruden exchanged penalties in the first quarter, before the only try of the first half came.

Argentina's failure to control a high mid-field kick saw the ball knocked on and wing Julian Savea picked up the ball, beat the tackle attempt of lock Juan Cabello, and cleared out on a 60-metre burst to score.

Play was held up interminably while the TMO was consulted on two points, and then when the try was awarded Aaron Cruden was given a second attempt after an early charge by Argentina.

Nicolas Sánchez and Cruden further exchanged penalties, making it 11-9 at the break.

Marcelo Bosch kicked a long-range penalty to reclaim the lead for the Pumas.

However, the breakthrough for the Kiwis came after a sustained period of continuity play in the Argentinian 22-metre area.

After play ranged across field and back, with some powerful driving, the ball emerged on the flank where Sam Cane went over wide out for the try.

Moments later, in the 55th minute, a superb play from a short line-out saw second centre Ma'a Nonu do a double pump with the ball, resulting in a short pass being taken by wing Ben Smith and after he stepped fullback Juan Martin Hernandez he had the speed to make the line which, with the conversion, took New Zealand to a 26-12 lead.

New Zealand went looking for the bonus point try, but met stern resistance from the home side - who also landed their fifth penalty goal, the fourth of the game to flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.

Man of the match: As was to be expected, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe was Argentina's best player. Kieran Read, who had to pass a late fitness test, Sam Cane and Samuel Whitelock all made great contributions. However, our award goes to Aaron Cruden for the manner in which he controlled the game in the season half, when it called for a calm head.

Moment of the match: There were four tries, of which three were worthy. However, our award goes to Ben Smith's second try, right on the full-time hooter, as it gave New Zealand a vital bonus point.

Villain of the match: Perhaps the rickety New Zealand scrum, but we won't embarrass them with that 'accolade'.

The scorers:

For Argentina:
Sánchez 4, Bosch

For New Zealand:
Savea, Cane, Smith 2
Cons: Cruden, Barrett
Pens: Cruden 3


Argentina: 15 Juan Martín Hernández, 14 Lucas González Amorosino, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (captain), 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Julio Farías Cabello, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Benjamín Macome, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Felipe Contepomi, 23 Horacio Agulla.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 1 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)