Champions battle Argentine niggle for win

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Lynn McConnell     01 Oct 2017     Getty Images

In a first half which saw some dazzling rugby as they went to a 29-3 bonus point try lead, the All Blacks were scoreless until injury time at the end of the second half when replacement fullback David Havili scored off a move from a five-metre scrum on his Test debut.
As much as there was satisfaction to be taken from an outstanding game by fullback Damian McKenzie, a scrum performance that totally negated the Argentinian reputation, a bone-rattling tackling display and more sublime touches from Beauden Barrett, there would be equal disappointment that they dropped their standards in a scrappy second half.

Lock Luke Romano and loosehead prop Kane Hames were two who could take much satisfaction from their efforts as the side were forced into undertaking more of their education process especially when games turn niggly.

It was the 10th consecutive loss for Argentina while it was their 24th consecutive loss to the All Blacks who have won 19 games without loss against Southern Hemisphere rivals.

At his first test under the high ball, McKenzie took the ball forward under challenge and the ball was moved to wing Rieko Ioane. Coming back right, lock Scott Barrett took the ball into contact and it squirted from the side of the ruck.

But halfback Aaron Smith cleared it quickly and with a lob pass from second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams, wing Waisake Naholo ran between two forwards and sent it out to captain Kieran Read who scored in the sixth minute.

Argentina paid the price for poor discipline from their best scoring opportunity right on the All Blacks line early in the game. Getting the ball back downfield, the All Blacks called for a scrum at a penalty in front of the Pumas' goalposts. The pressure went on from the All Blacks who marched the home eight backwards and when a penalty was awarded, a hack of the ball from Argentina flanker Pablo Matera saw it fly to McKenzie, who took the ball, ran up to the mark for the quick tap and charged five metres to score.

McKenzie was in the action three minutes later when he was upended coming into the line, but from the ruck Smith moved to the blindside and Barrett took the gap and then flicked a delicate backhand pass to Naholo whose speed took him to the try.

Unable to stay out of the play, in the 26th minute, McKenzie took a between the legs pass from Barrett to burn the defence and pass to Reid for his second try.

The half ended with the Pumas camped off the All Blacks' goal-line and where in a second lineout from penalties, flanker Matt Todd was sin-binned for collapsing a maul. But when Argentina decided on a scrum option, the dominance achieved by All Blacks loosehead Hames on his opposite Nahuel Chaparro resulted in a scrum penalty allowing them to clear the line and go to half-time.

Chaparro's exit three minutes into the second half signaled Argentina's concern with their scrum. But the toll in the scrum didn't change and after three penalties Ramiro Herrera was yellow-carded.

Penalties allowed Argentina to get back into the All Blacks 22m area and while the impressive defence denied them a try, the repeated infringements and a high tackle by Read resulted in him being yellow-carded in the 49th minute.

In subsequent play, the All Blacks managed to turn the ball over but after stealing the ball from a Pumas throw-in, the home team got the ball back and after a goal-line melee it was No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon who dived over the ruck and after TMO inspection the try was awarded.

Naholo looked to have scored a second try in the 60th minute after some fine work on the flank by replacement hooker Codie Taylor but a forward pass saw the try over-ruled. Replacement mid-fielder Ngani Laumape also went close before being bundled out in the corner.

But the last word was with the All Blacks with the simplicity and accuracy from the scrum resulting in Havili's try.

Scorers: Argentina 10 (Juan Manuel Leguizamon try; Nicolas Sanchez con, pen ) New Zealand 36 (Kieran Read 2, Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, David Havili tries; Beauden Barrett 4 con, pen). HT: 29-3