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All Blacks pushed hard by Argentina

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Lynn McConnell     21 Sep 2015     Getty Images

It had been a dour struggle as Argentina led 16-12 until the 56th minute of the game but the infusion of new blood, and the draining effect of the intense Pumas effort, had its effect.

Hooker Agustin Creevy led his side superbly and No.8 Leonardo Senatore and flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe had outstanding games while wing Juan Imhoff and fullback Joaquin Tuculet were always dangerous with the ball in hand.

However, it was the experience and calmness under pressure that came through for the All Blacks even if it was the first time in New Zealand's Cup history they hadn't claimed the four-try bonus point in pool play.

Halfback Aaron Smith provided some welcome relief in the 56th minute when crossing for the first try to reclaim the lead. It came after a raft of substitutions had seen New Zealand look to take Argentina on more often through the forwards.

They also eschewed two possible penalty goal attempts to take lineout options and from the second a maul saw full commitment by the Argentina defence which left a gap on the blindside which Smith was able to exploit.

Sonny Bill Williams, who allayed fears about his form, started to find gaps in a seemingly impenetrable Argentina defences and in the 66th minute Sam Cane, who replaced Jerome Kaino at flanker, was on hand to score the game breaker for New Zealand.

But with props Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina having an impact along with Williams the way was cleared for New Zealand to claim the win.

Argentina lost flanker Paul Matera 10 minutes into the game when he cynically fouled All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith as he made a tap penalty five metres out from the Argentina line. First five-eighths Dan Carter landed his second penalty goal to give New Zealand a 6-0 lead.

Lock Guido Petti crossed for the first try of the game in the 22nd minute when Argentina built powerfully through close-quarter running with the ball in hand with No.8 Leonardo Senatore prominent in the set-up play.

New Zealand lost Richie McCaw to the sin-bin for the third time in his 143rd Test career, for a trip on Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe 29 minutes into the game as Lobbe made a tap kick which resulted in the ball being knocked on. As a result first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez landed a penalty goal to give Argentina a 10-9 lead.

Argentina's defence was strong as the All Blacks made several attempts at the line but the Pumas' patience held and when they broke out they held the ball through several pairs of hands with wing Juan Imhoff making a good break. In front of their own goalposts the All Blacks had centre Conrad Smith sin-binned for an infringement at the ruck.

With only 13 men on the field, the All Blacks could have been vulnerable had Argentina opted for the scrum, but instead Sanchez kicked a penalty goal, which was replied to by New Zealand with Carter landing his fourth on half-time.

Making early substitutions in the second half they almost had an immediate effect when Williams, who replaced Ma'a Nonu, made a blindside break and created a chance but his offload was dropped by wing Nehe Milner-Skudder five metres from the Pumas line.

Scorers: New Zealand 26 (Aaron Smith, Sam Cane tries; Dan Carter 2 con, 4 pen) Argentina 16 (Guido Petti try; Nicolas Sanchez con, 3 pen). HT: 12-13