The All Blacks struggled to a 21-5 victory over a gallant Argentina at Westpac Stadium yesterday to remain unbeaten in the Rugby Championship despite another error-filled performance.
Argentina, with little possession but a well-organized defense, were still in with a chance until the 66th minute, when the All Blacks scored the first of their two tries.
Coach Steve Hansen had said eliminating the indecision and poor option-taking of their first two matches against Australia in the series had been the priority for this week, but there was little sign of an improvement.
Not even the gale-packing winds of more than 100kph battering the city could be blamed for the 20 turnovers conceded by the world champions.
The All Blacks now have three wins from three outings, while Argentina have two losses and a draw, but have shown they are not far off the pace in their first year in the southern hemisphere competition.
Their performance against the All Blacks raised questions about how much better they could have been if they were able to secure more than 34 percent possession and 33 percent of territory.
The All Blacks’ errors started in the opening minute when Luke Romano passed the ball to a linesman, unaware that wing Cory Jane had cut inside him.
In a rare Argentinian foray up to the All Blacks line, Ma’a Nonu attempted to run out of trouble, but succeeded only in turning over the ball, which the Pumas turned into a try to veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero.
Argentina maintained the lead for 11 minutes before Aaron Cruden landed a second penalty to put the All Blacks in front 6-5.
Nonu was guilty of a second knock-on and Kieran Read and Aaron Smith also spilled the ball when the All Blacks were threatening the Argentina line.
Marcelo Bosch’s ability to marshal a tight Argentina defensive line was responsible for much of the All Blacks’ misfortunes as they searched for a way through.
When former sevens star Victor Vito did find himself in the clear with a 22m run to the line, it was outside center Bosch who cut him down from behind just on halftime.
As the players were returning to the field after the break the ground was plunged into darkness by a power outage, causing a 15-minute delay before they were able to restart.
Cruden inched the All Blacks further ahead at 9-5 with a third penalty before Argentine flanker Julio Farias Cabello saved a try, but earned a yellow card for slapping down the ball when the All Blacks had a two-man overlap.
While the All Blacks had the one-man advantage they scored their first try when the passes stuck and the ball went through the chain for Julian Savea to score in the corner.
They scored their second try five minutes later with a wide pass from Cruden cutting out two players to find an unmarked Cory Jane on the wing.
WALLABIES V SPRINGBOKS
AFP, PERTH, Australia
Australia overcame a slow start to ease some pressure on coach Robbie Deans with a 26-19 win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship Test last night.
The Wallabies finally rediscovered their attacking edge to score 20 points in the second half and claw their way back to overpower the Springboks after trailing 13-6 at halftime.
With only one try in their two prior Bledisloe Cup defeats at the hands of New Zealand, the Wallabies looked in real danger of having their four-match winning streak against South Africa snapped with a listless first-half performance that must have made the under-pressure Deans anxious.