Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Weepu’s boot hoists All Blacks into semi-finals

AFP, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Scrumhalf Piri Weepu, entrusted with the kicking duties in the absence of Dan Carter, put New Zealand into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals with seven penalties in a 33-10 victory over Argentina at Eden Park yesterday.

Argentina’s sound defense restricted the All Blacks to just two tries, both in the final quarter of the game, while the Pumas crossed the line once to briefly, and against all predictions, lead in the first half.

The last of the four quarter-finals was the only one to produce the winner forecast by the bookmakers as Weepu finished with a match haul of 21 points.

The win pits New Zealand against Australia in one semi-final after their trans-Tasman rivals knocked defending champions South Africa out of the tournament with an 11-9 win in their quarter-final earlier yesterday. The second semi-final between France and Wales was decided on Saturday after their victories over England and Ireland respectively.

“I think it’s what we expected,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said.

“We knew if we kept chipping away, we would get the chances. They [Argentina] are a team that attack the breakdown well and they slowed up our ball a wee bit in the first half,” the flanker added. “That was one of the big improvements we got going in the second half, we got some quick ball and played at the right end.”

Argentina skipper and playmaker Felipe Contepomi, whose team finished third at the 2007 World Cup, said they were undone by the “magic” of the All Blacks.

“I think it was competitive for 60 minutes, then I think the All Blacks showed their magic and they won well,” Contepomi said. “That’s rugby, you know.”

New Zealand were in control from the opening exchanges against Argentina and while they were unable to score a try until the 67th minute, they were able to quickly master the reputed strength of the Argentina pack.

However, while the All Blacks backs retained the ball for long periods, mixing cut-out passes and wrap around movements to shift Argentina’s heavy pack around Eden Park, they could not penetrate the Pumas’ staunch defense.

It was left to Weepu to accumulate the points starting with a 38m penalty in the 13th minute and doubling the score soon after when Argentina conceded a scrum penalty as their main weapon began to misfire early.

However, even though they were forced on the back foot for most of the game, the Pumas scored the only try of the opening 40 minutes.

Leonardo Senatore came off the back of a scrum, beat the tackle of McCaw and took play deep into All Blacks territory before off-loading for a try to flanker Julio Farias Cabello, converted from the sideline by Contepomi to leave the Pumas up 7-6.

Weepu regained the lead with two more penalties to have New Zealand 12-7 ahead at halftime.

Argentina’s long-range marksman Marcelo Bosch narrowed the gap to 12-10 with a successful penalty from halfway, soon after the restart.

However, another two Weepu penalties made it 18-10, before No. 8 Kieran Read finally pierced the Pumas’ defense for New Zealand’s first try following a series of forward rushes.

The All Blacks closed out the game with another Weepu penalty and a rare try for lock Brad Thorn, who galloped 25m to score after replacement flyhalf Aaron Cruden and winger Cory Jane had opened up Argentina down the right flank.

Cruden, who converted the try, had a sound game after coming on early when Carter’s understudy, Colin Slade, left the field with a leg injury.

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