|Fernández Lobbe continues to search for a first Rugby Championship victory|
In the 2012 edition of the Rugby Championship the All Blacks defeated Los Pumas 54-15 in La Plata and did so by scoring seven tries to two. This evening Argentina defended much better to conceede four tries but the All Blacks defended near perfectly in winning 33-15.
An evenly fought first half saw the All Blacks leading 11-9 at the interval. The difference between the sides was Julian Savea who scored an opportunist try after Argentina was unable to regather an up-and-under on the New Zealand 10 metre line. The try was contested by Nicolás Sánchez but replays showed it was a legitimate try and New Zealand had the chance to go further ahead. Aaron Cruden was given a second chance to take the conversion after a supporter in the stadium aimed a green lazer at the ball. The deplorable action is not tolerated for rugby matches and the UAR will have to increase its efforts together with the police to ensure that it does not occur again.
The first half featured an All Blacks side looking to speed up play throughout and the New Zealanders were able to do so but half breaks were covered and Argentina´s back-row proved to be competitive in getting to the breakdown in numbers. Both sides were awarded penalties and Aaron Cruden was able to land one compared to the three on target from Sánchez. Argentina, though had other opportunities with Sánchez missing a kick he would usually expect to land and he also missed an attempted drop goal. The first chance at points, however saw Marcelo Bosch attempting a kick from inside his own half. It was short and wide.
Of note in the first half was the Argentine scrum which again sent the All Blacks backwards and contributed to Argentina being awarded penalties. Other aspects of the match were far impressive though with Argentina´s star of Rugby World Cup 2007, Juan Martín Hernández having an off-match throughout. He made unforced errors reminiscent of a 21 year old rather than a 31 year old. The second half did not begin perfectly for Hernández either as the Racing Métro fullback kicked the kick-off directly out givein the All Blacks a scrum on half way.
Stastistically the first half was dead even in terms of tackles made as both sides completed 31 tackles. New Zealand however missed three compared to Argentina who missed nine. Argentina´s scrum had been crucial to enabling the South Americans to be just two points behind. It was also decisive in how the second half started as New Zealand was penalized in the first scrum of the half. Bosch was given a penalty attempt and landed it to put Argentina ahead 12-11.New Zealand though reclaimed the lead straight away after Juan Figallo played the ball on the ground in a ruck following the kick-off.
The first ten minutes of the second half were even but New Zealand was then able to take over with a try to Sam Cane in the left corner in the 52nd minute. The pace of play combined with the All Blacks having advantage was sufficient for the All Blacks to find a way over the try line. Three minutes later Ben Smith scored beside the posts after getting put through the gap from a Ma´a Nonu off-load. A fourteen point lead almost became twenty-one after Hernández failed to take another kick through from New Zealand.
Starting the final quarter wth a twenty point lead New Zealand conceded a penalty which saw Sánchez decrease the lead to 26-15 but in search of a try Argentina then gave Savea a chance to score a certain try only for the Hurricanes winger to knock-on. New Zealand, though was able to score its crucial fourth try and collect a bonus point to all but guarantee it will retain the Rugby Championship title. South Africa now needs to win by more than seven and score four or more tries next Saturday. Argentina, in contrast needs a first ever Rugby Championship win over the Wallabies to avoid the wooden spoon.
Looking ahead to 2023 and the prospect of Argentina hosting the Rugby World Cup the attendance and the overall crowd behavior suggest that Argentina is on track to be a strong contender to stage the event.