All Blacks grind out win

By Wynne Gray in Hamilton

Aaron Smith of the All Blacks celebrates with Julian Savea of the All Blacks after scoring his first try during the Rugby Championship. Photo / Getty Images.
Aaron Smith of the All Blacks celebrates with Julian Savea of the All Blacks after scoring his first try during the Rugby Championship. Photo / Getty Images.

All Blacks 28
Argentina 13

Even though the All Blacks were in action, it was hard not to think ahead to the America's Cup which was going to grasp the nation's early morning attention.

They lost skipper Richie McCaw overboard, with the captain expected to be out for at least five weeks after damaging his medial ligament

The analogies kept coming, if in reverse as New Zealand gave Argentina a seven point start when debut second five eighths Francis Saili shelled a simple pass and the visitors claimed a converted try.

The Pumas forwards regathered the ball and several simple passes later Juan Manuel Leguizamon dived across the line with Nicolas Sanchez expertly nudging over the conversion.

It was a gift start in the fifth minute and just the spur Argentina needed in their biggest challenge in the Rugby Championship.

Eventually the All Blacks triumphed 28-13 at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton but there were long patches when the Pumas gave the series champions some consternation.

Argentina kept their early lead until the 24th minute when they were punished for their indiscipline. They were under the hammer in their 22 and hooker Eusebio Guinazu went to the sinbin for a professional foul at a ruck.

The All Blacks ignored a kick at goal and from the lineout and ruck worked a superb move to put halfback Aaron Smith in for the first of his two tries in the opening half.

No 8 Kieran Read charged into a defender but managed to push a soft no look round the corner pass into space for Smith to collect and dive in at the corner.

It was a sumptuous piece of skill from Read, who was working much closer to the play last night while Steven Luatua ranged out much wider in the tramlines.

Smith was the beneficiary and minutes later he claimed another try when he followed a centre kick from Ben Smith and forced the ball as it eluded Luatua and a Puma defender.
In a trice, the All Blacks hit the front and the Pumas were chasing the match. They had a most impressive scrum nudging the All Blacks regularly and they were powerful at the breakdown.

However the visitors' lineout did not function. They lost four of their own throws in the first half and so could not create enough sustained pressure.

Saili settled after his early gaffe and sniped often at the line while his deft grubber almost drew a try for Ben Smith as well.

Conditions worsened after the break as the drizzle turned into steady rain.

The vital first score came for the All Blacks when Read charged a kick down and when the ball was spread wide, Argentina ran out of defenders as Julian Savea circled around towards the posts.

After converting, five eighths Daniel Carter was subbed but as he wandered away, McCaw fell awkwardly making a tackle and the nation began its debate about the ramifications of his forced exit.

Further All Black attempts to find the fatal blow were foiled by conditions, their over-eagerness and the Pumas' resilience.

The All Blacks had the victory on an awkward night but all of the discussion will be about the playing future of their talisman captain McCaw and when he will suit up next.

All Blacks 28 (Aaron Smith 2, Julian Savea, tries; Daniel Carter 2 con, 2 pen, Beauden Barrett pen. )
Argentina 13 (Juan Manuel Leguizamon; tries, Nicolas Sanchez 2 pen, con) HT:

- NZ Herald

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