Tight game at Wembley, 2015
by Roger Childs
The All Blacks will be pleased to come away with a 26-16 win in their first pool match. They haven’t played for four weeks and it looked it. Argentina was never going to be easy as their rugby has matured in recent years with their experience in the Four Nations competition. The Pumas came out firing in front of 90,000 spectators at the iconic Wembley Stadium and had the better of the first half.
A fired-up Puma team
The Argentinians pushed the All Black scrum back early on, were tigerish in the loose and tackled ferociously. They scored the first try, despite being a man down, after a succession of sustained forward drives.
The All Blacks struggled to gain ascendancy and made a number of handling errors. The worst of these was when Milner-Skudder snatched at an excellent pass from Sonny Bill Williams and knocked the ball on with the try-line beckoning.
Comeback in the second half
Down 12-16, the tide turned in the second half and Aaron Smith scored a superb try after some excellent footwork close to the line. Whereas earlier the back-line passing had been somewhat laboured and too much possession had been kicked away, the backs and forwards combined well with several impressive flowing movements.
Retallick and Read were probably the pick of the New Zealand forwards while Aaron and Conrad Smith and Julian Savea were impressive in the backs.
As usual players off the bench performed well and the introduction of Sonny Bill and Beauden Barrett injected spark and pace in the back-line.
The replacement props Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina had a significant impact and helped the All Blacks gain dominance in the scrums. Tony Woodcock is past his best and it showed.
Not the greatest referee!
Referee Wayne Barnes, who is probably unique in having refereed three All Black test losses, had a mixed game and made a bad decision in sending Conrad Smith off for handling in a ruck after he had pushed the ball back while still on his feet.
Barnes still loves waving the yellow cards around and needs to remember the crowd has come to watch the rugby not him.
The All Blacks now have an easy run in pool games and the crucial match between Ireland and France will decide who they meet in the quarter finals.
The remainder of the squad will get a run in the next two pool matches, but in the last game expect a full strength All Back team.
In the meantime there is plenty to work on, as they say, after the mixed performance against the Pumas.