All Blacks stutter in win over Argentina
NELSON, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 08: Nehe Milner-Skudder of the All Blacks scores a try during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina at Trafalgar Park on September 8, 2018 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

It was supposed to be the other way around. The All Blacks were supposed to play an exceptional match in their Rugby Championship game against Argentina. The fresh talent was supposed to shine on the big stage. Instead, it was the host city and venue who shone brightest, as the All Blacks stuttered to a 46-24 win over Los Pumas.

So while the All Blacks stuttered for a considerable period in the match; finally getting the upper hand after 70 minutes, the host city outshines its guest. The smaller city center put on a brilliant display for the visiting teams and the traveling spectators, on Saturday night.

Trafalgar Park
A general view of the ground is seen ahead of The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina at Trafalgar Park on September 8, 2018 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

A tough test match for the All Blacks, who only just overcame Argentina, in an inaccurate Rugby Championship fixture. Not a perfect exhibition game, the host city, in fact, outshining both it’s guests, to prove that a smaller venue can host a full International match.

The only downside was that the game was not scheduled for a 2:35pm start.

 

Besides that, Nelson was the perfect setting for both teams to relax and enjoy the week’s preparation and another classic tussle in this crucial Championship encounter.

Classic tussle between New Zealand and Argentina

The rugby was another gigantic tussle. The scoreline reflects the outcome, but like an engine short on fuel, the All Blacks stuttered at times, allowing the opposition to score 24 points – the most points ever, by a Los Pumas side against New Zealand.

The Argentine players put everything into it and received praise from the All Blacks coaching staff. “We got put under pressure by a good Argentinean side. I thought they played particularly well at times.

“We had to show a lot of mental fortitude, and we let in three tries; our defensive work wasn’t as good as it could have been. But I really liked the response – every time they scored, we came back. We showed a lot of strength of character I think,” was head coach Steve Hansen’s replies to questions in the post-match media conference [see video here].

“It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.”

Two moments in the game counted towards the victory. In the 30th minute, TJ Perenara completed a build-up of a dozen phases, to score. And in the 73rd minute, after countless rucks and blunted attacks from New Zealand, Shannon Frizell crossed over. With the scores close at 32-24, this seven-pointer meant that the early pressure from Argentina was finally deflected.

New Zealand 46 – Tries: TJ Perenara (2), Nehe Milner-Skudder, Kieran Read, Shannon Frizell, Jack Goodhue; Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (5); Penalties: Mo’unga (2)

Argentina 24 – Tries: Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Emiliano Boffelli; Cons: Sanchez (3); Penalty: Sanchez.

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi of the All Blacks performs the haka during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina at Trafalgar Park on September 8, 2018 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

All Blacks development one benefit from Argentina clash

Bringing in new talent was always the development focus. So Richie Mo’unga and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (see above) had good starts and will reap the benefits in their future within the team. Observations from commentators assessed Mo’unga performance as a pass mark, while he seemed to be a little rushed at times. A big step up from Super Rugby, Mo’unga did not settle as quickly as his opposite Nicolas Sanchez. The Pumas pivot played with freedom and showed his years of experience.

Shannon Frizell again displayed his power, and it will take a lot to shift him out of the number six jersey. Running as the first receiver, he broke the line on multiple occasions. A mix of Jerome Kaino and Jerry Collins, the Highlander will only get better with more minutes on the field, and he was the top tackler with 16 hits.

In the front row, Karl Tu’inukuafe managed his first test start with ease. The prop is composed and the scrum did not diminish its strength with his inclusion (for the injured Joe Moody).

The biggest disappointment, aside from the stuttering nature of the performance up til the end of the second half, was an injury to Brodie Retallick. Falling heavily, he left the field after 10 minutes play. It will not be a welcomed thought for the All Blacks coaches on Sunday morning. Having only had the International lock back for a handful of test matches, if he cannot recover for the next test in Wellington (against South Africa) may see Jackson Hemopo or another player brought into the squad as a replacement.

Steve Hansen could only remark that “Brodes shoulder is pretty sore, and again we don’t know how bad it is, until he gets a scan on Monday.”

In an exchange of three players; Ben Smith off for an HIA assessment and Retallick leaving the field, Ngani Laumape also went off early. A knee injury meant that the replacement players Anton Lienert-Brown and Sam Whitelock were required to play more minutes than imagined. Ben Smith passed his concussion test, but injuries will be a cause for concern, as will some of the defensive lapses – yet, with criticism, must come some praise for the opposition.

Argentine wingers outshine the All Blacks backline

Ramiro Moyano carried his form from the Jaguares into The Rugby Championship. He ran for 112 meters, beating six defenders and impressing many. SkySports commentators were glowing of the impact which the Los Pumas backline had, against the much vaunted All Blacks outside backs.

Ramiro Moyano
Ramiro Moyano of Argentina makes a break on his way to score a try during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina at Trafalgar Park on September 8, 2018 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

With Nicolas Sanchez using high kicks and slick passing, he was able to inspire Emiliano Boffelli to have his best game in the national colours. Bautista Delguy was not quite as effective, in a similar way to how Waisake Naholo couldn’t beat his way past the strong Pumas defence.

 

Justin Marshall gave praise when he said “they created problems [for the All Blacks] simply because they were prepared to work. They are a dangerous side when they really get in sync, boy they’re gonna cut some teams open.”

Only Nehe Milner-Skudder (see main picture) was able to counter the Argentine outside backs and was rewarded with a try on his return from shoulder injury in 2017.

Jack Goodhue crossed for another try, emulating the successful start to his career that he enjoyed in Australia and in Auckland. He seems to be a good fit for this group, and Sonny Bill Williams will find it hard to remove the Crusaders midfielder when it comes to future selections.

TJ Perenara was also a key figure for New Zealand. Scoring twice, he was the calming influence around the ruck; while not a fast with his passing as Aaron Smith, Perenara is a bullet around the back of the breakdown area. Martin Landajo was not the link that Argentina’s head coach Mario Ledesma will have needed, and he may find Tomas Cubelli to be a better option next week, in Australia.

Argentina would have wanted a win, but they played close to their best. It upset the All Blacks rhythm – Richie Mo’unga should take this lesson, and he will improve in his distribution and kicking in his next International cap – so credit must go to the opposition. They too might have enjoyed playing in the afternoon, and their loud supporters will have sung even louder, under the bright skies of Nelson.

New Zealand ‘settle’ for a 46-24 win at Trafalgar Park

Steve Hansen will settle for the victory. No International test match is easy, and he will be glad that his side is unbeaten after three rounds of The Rugby Championship. While a 46 point result will naturally be seen as a success, the real success story was the host city and venue. Trafalgar Park was dressed up to hold over 20,000 rugby fans – and it was all made better, by the host city of Nelson.

A magnificent setting for a boutique rugby ground, the fine weather could have justified a 2:35pm kickoff. It often frustrates rugby viewers that the broadcasters and offshore audience dictate a 7:35pm start. The clash with the NZ Warriors game might have also cost SkySport in local viewers, so if any example can be made to return to a classic afternoon rugby test, then Nelson (or New Plymouth, Napier or Whangarei) would benefit from re-scheduling.

Argentina beat the Springboks two weeks ago, and the match was played in the afternoon. If that nation can schedule tests in the daytime, then New Zealand Rugby can recognize the desire of the rugby public to enjoy matches like this one – played in a beautiful town, sun shining – rather than at night.

It was still a tough test match. Richie Mo’unga said it best when he remarked to SkySport that “as a team, we didn’t string enough phases together. We spilled the ball (18 turnovers) we gave them a lot of possession, and that’s what they are capable of doing. Putting us under a lot of pressure”. And while he will be better off for the experience, if that same performance is shown in Buenos Aires, then the result could be a harder pill to take.

Argentina in fact had 55% possession [OPTA stats]. Mario Ledesma said “We had our chances. The one try that wasn’t allowed, I still think it was a try. We could have been closer, we scored some points but they scored too many easy points”. Yet he will want to congratulate his team on their own development cycle. Apart from their scrum and the 14 penalties conceded, his men were as close to the All Blacks as they have been. It was just in the end, several tries and early penalty kicks meant the 22 point difference in the end.

The next time these two teams meet; on September 30 in Buenos Aires, the visitors will need to have a vastly improved performance. The stuttered, unpolished display cannot be repeated if they are going to retain their unbeaten record against Argentina.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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