For us to go out and play with the tempo and pace in that first half was critical for us. It took the game and crowd away from them…. New Zealand Coach, Ian Foster
By Roger Childs
Sell-out crowd gets plenty of entertainment
On a beautiful afternoon in Mendoza, Argentina, the All Backs dominated the first half of their first test match of the year. It was 31–0 at half time after the visitors had scored five well-constructed tries. The Pumas were not in it and a cricket score was in prospect, especially as the home team started the second half with a man in the sin bin.
However, the Argentinians responded well to the coach’s half time talk and came out determined to show their metal. Although they eventually lost 12-41 it was two tries each in the second 40 minutes. The home side had more possession and instead of kicking the ball away, as they did in the first half, they used their rampaging forwards and speedy backs to keep the All Blacks under pressure.
Great start for the All Blacks
This decisive victory away in this opening encounter in the Four Nations competition, was just what the coaches wanted. After some early nerves when Damian McKenzie’s attempted clearing kick on the goal line was charged down, the visitors ran the ball at pace and were rewarded with three well executed tries in the first 12 minutes.
Dane Coles (pictured) was back to his best and scored first after a superb break by Reiko Ioane. Then after a try to Ardie Savea, a dazzling interchange between the Barrett brothers from deep in their own half saw Jordie cross for an excellent try. Jordie was declared “Man of the Match” on the basis of his strong running, excellent line kicking and deadly tackling.
The All Blacks scrum persistently pushed the Pumas back and the visitors’ lineout was very reliable. Forwards and backs combined well in the open, and the tackling, led by captain by Sam Cane, was highly effective. The visitors never let the Argentinians into the game in the first half.
Even contest in the second half
After the first 40 minutes, the locals came out of the sheds determined to give the massive crowd something to cheer about. Instead of kicking away good possession the Pumas ran the ball well with speedy running in the backs and strong drives by individual forwards. They were rewarded with two very good tries, one to their highly experienced replacement hooker Agustin Creevy.
The All Blacks made too many errors in the second forty minutes and ill-discipline saw them heavily penalized. At one point it looked as if the All Blacks would not score again, however in the last quarter Beauden Barrett went over for a try after a superb long pass from McKenzie and then right winger Emoni Narawa on debut, scored in the corner after a dramatic dive.
Tough games to come
So Kiwis will be pleased with the impressive victory in Mendoza, but tough competition awaits the All Blacks next week in Auckland. Their opponents will be the old foe the Springboks who demolished the Wallabies, under new coach Eddie Jones, 43-12 in Pretoria.