Late tries save New Zealand’s blushes against Argentina
Two late tries from wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane gave the All Blacks a 21-5 victory over Argentina in their Rugby Championship match that was disrupted by a power cut in the port area of New Zealand’s capital city on Saturday.
Wellington Regional Stadium, which sits on land adjacent to the port, was plunged into darkness during the halftime break because of the outage, which delayed the start of the second half for about 15 minutes.
The blackout was an apt metaphor for the game, with few highlights to speak about as both sides battled driving rain and swirling gale-force winds.
“They put us under a bit of pressure, but I was very happy with the way we came out in the second half. We played at the right end of the field and that pressure told in the end,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said in a pitchside interview.
“We got a bit frustrated with the scrum, couldn’t quite get it right.”
The Pumas were brutal in defence and brilliant at controlling the tempo of the game as they slowed it down at every opportunity, meandering to lineouts and taking time to set their scrum.
They also flooded the breakdown with their second and third tacklers flopping over the ball carrier in an attempt to stop the world champions developing momentum as the All Blacks failed to adequately clear them from the ruck.
The All Blacks, however, only had themselves to blame for much of their performance as they failed to correct errors that had blighted their previous two matches in the competition, back-to-back victories over Australia.
They committed basic mistakes with what ball they did have, dropping passes, getting penalised for holding on to it for too long and poor option taking.
The first half produced limited scoring opportunities with flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicking two penalties for the home side in the first spell.
Veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero scored the only try after All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu had turned the ball over inside his own 22-metre area.
Cruden kicked an early penalty in the second half but it was not until the 66th minute before the All Blacks finally got a backline move to work with Nonu and Conrad Smith committing players and feeding Savea for a try in the corner.
Jane scored in the opposite corner six minutes later from a long cut out pass by Cruden to give the All Blacks a 19-5 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining to put the game out of reach.
McCaw felt the blackout had little effect on the outcome,
“It was a bit weird but the big thing was to keep your mind on the job, it was the same for both teams and so we weren’t going to use it as an excuse and we were able to come and turn it around from where we weren’t quite satisfied in the first half,” he said.
New Zealand — Tries: Julian Savea, Cory Jane; Conversions: Aaron Cruden; Penalties: Cruden (3)
Argentina — Try: Rodrigo Roncero