Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

All Blacks: Conditions didn't help Cruden

Many watched and waited for Aaron Cruden to get an opportunity to start another test for the All Blacks but his impact was largely muted against Argentina tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Many watched and waited for Aaron Cruden to get an opportunity to start another test for the All Blacks but his impact was largely muted against Argentina tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Aaron Cruden was given a tough reminder of the rigours of test rugby tonight.

The Manawatu pivot was thrown in to the firing line when he was summoned to replace Dan Carter at No 10 to play against Argentina in Wellington.

Blustery conditions didn't suit the nippy five-eighth, who loves to run and find gaps in the defensive line, but he didn't impose himself on the match in a fashion he would have liked.

New Zealand eventually ran out to a 21-5 victory with two late tries giving them a safety cushion.

Cruden's cut-out pass to Cory Jane to put the wing over in the corner was the 23-year-old's brightest moment while his sideline conversion was a nice touch to complete his performance.

He was subbed a few minutes later for youngster Beauden Barrett and All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said it was a learning experience for his No 9 and 10 combination of Aaron Smith and Cruden.

"I think it's very tough conditions for a nine and 10 but I thought they went through a period in that first half again that we struggled to have a few answers against what Argentina were throwing to us," Foster said.

"But I loved the way they solved a few problems and came up with some solutions in that second half and really settled in to the game. I thought Aaron [Cruden] was one of a number of guys that sort of seemed to finish the game a heck of a lot stronger than they started it."

The first half was one to forget for Cruden who made three handling errors and miscued his first penalty attempt at goal.

Despite New Zealand playing with the wind at their backs in the opening 40 minutes they failed to take advantage of the gusts and pin Argentina back in their half through a controlled kicking game.

The All Blacks insisted on running the ball as they searched for accuracy in their fast-paced game but it wasn't that sort of a night.

Argentina slowed down the ball at the breakdown and the home side's forwards couldn't gain parity to the let Cruden and Smith combine to set the backline on fire.

Eventually, the All Blacks' fitness and a yellow card to Argentine flanker Julio Farias Cabello helped Cruden lead his side to victory.

There's no timeline on Carter's return to the fold as he battles a tight calf but if the Cantabrian can't recover in time for next weekend Cruden will be given another shot when the All Blacks meet South Africa in Dunedin.

- APNZ

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