New Zealand moved to the top of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship following a 28-9 victory over Argentina in Napier on Saturday. The All Blacks outscored Los Pumas by three tries to none in the pouring rain on the country’s North Island.
The first opportunity to put points on the board fell to Beauden Barrett. The full first five minutes were played in the away side’s half and they eventually conceded a penalty. However Barrett pushed his attempt wide to the right.
In the 11th minute Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino attempted a drop kick from the touchline some 40 metres out but it was wide to the left of the upright as the visitors began to find their feet. Scoring was opened at last after 16 minutes when Barrett had a second shot at goal in a similar position to before but this time he slotted the three points. The Argentine maul was working well and Los Pumas pressure eventually told when they were awarded a penalty after the hosts were found offside at the maul.
Nicolas Sanchez levelled matters from the resultant penalty and it was 3-3 after 18 minutes. The All Blacks were finally over the line courtesy of Julian Savea who pounced on a Conrad Smith grubber that came from a ruck as a result of a Barrett grubber. The five-pointer came at a price, not only because of Barrett’s missed conversion, but also because Sam Whitelock left the field due to a rib injury and Jeremy Thrush came on to replace the lock.
The South American scrum forced a penalty in the 32nd minute and Sanchez lined up to slot his second of the night. The Argentine flyhalf went for a drop goal just before half-time but it did not hit the target. The hooter had gone but that did not stop Liam Messam from scoring a late try.
From a turnover at the scrum, the All Blacks moved the ball down the line before cutting back the other way and it was 13-6 at the break. It was a case of one either side of half-time for Savea when he went over early in the second half. From the line out, Aaron Smith passed to Barrett who put Savea straight through the Argentina midfield, however Barrett’s kicking boots were clearly not in Napier as missed another conversion; this time a far easier attempt.
From a charge down off Ma’a Nonu Leonardo Senatore showed a clean pair of heels to go over for Argentina’s first try of the match, however the officials incorrectly ruled it to be a knock-on. Daniel Hourcade’s men settled for three points a few minutes later when Sanchez slotted his third penalty of the night and it was 18-9 with 17 minutes to play. Colin Slade replaced Barrett and slotted a penalty but the New Zealanders’ kicking woes continued as Slade would soon miss an attempt at goal.
Aaron Smith then scored the third try of the night for the All Blacks under the posts in the 72nd minute and there was no chance of a miss by Slade and it was 28-9.