Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Second-half slippage no reason for fans to panic

The All Blacks juggernaut rolls on. But what are we to make of that frustrating second half and was it a sign that the sleek black machine of 2016 is starting to creak and might actually be vulnerable?

I'll answer my own question.

While the second spell was one of the more frustrating 40 minutes of test rugby I've seen in a long while - and the first time in an equally long time that the All Blacks have been outscored in a half of football - any suggestion Kieran Read's team is starting to slip from the majestic heights shown so far this year is fanciful and misplaced.

The only criticism I would offer is that in previous matches where the game has become disruptive, slow-paced and with match officials having far too much influence, the All Blacks have been able to pull themselves out of the mire. This time, against a very committed Argentine team, they patently struggled to do that.

I have my own theory on that. Quite frankly, I think the nine changes to the starting line-up and squad had an effect and took away some of the rhythm, patience and mental fortitude that saw the side pull itself out of similar holes in previous tests. However when you put a side out that hasn't played together there will always be some issues.

But the All Blacks were also between a rock and a hard place - and let's not forget how impressive they were in that first half, particularly the last 10 minutes when the game was effectively torn from the Pumas' grasp.

With the Rugby Championship sealed before they even got on the plane in Auckland, Hansen was always going to mix and match for the remaining two tests. The fact there are back-to-back away internationals with South Africa lying in wait in the republic, Hansen faced a difficult juggling act.

Argentina represented a chance to take another good look at several players who have much to offer and to give them some meaningful test footy. TJ Perenara, Liam Squire and Patrick Tuipulotu are examples. Then there were the opportunities to give Anton Lienert-Brown a start (and how well did he do) and debut Damian McKenzie. Combined with plenty of substitutes in the 2nd half the team simply lost its synergy.

There were other factors too.

The sin binning of Joe Moody was a nonsense, to be frank. The slowing of the game for injuries and other stoppages created a stop-start nature second half that played directly into Argentina's hands.

But there's no need to fret.

The upside to the second half display is that it will have some of our world class stars like Aaron Smith, Charlie Faumuina and Malakai Fekitoa champing at the bit to take on the Boks this weekend.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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