Rugby Championship
All Blacks impress in 21-point win over Pumas
ESPN Staff
July 17, 2015
Date/Time: Jul 17, 2015, 19:35 local, 07:35 GMT
Venue: Rugby League Park, Christchurch
New Zealand 39 - 18 Argentina
Attendance: 17512  Half-time: 18 - 6
Tries: McCaw, Nonu, Piutau, Read, Taylor
Cons: Carter 4
Pens: Carter 2
Tries: Creevy 2
Cons: Sanchez
Pens: Sanchez 2
New Zealand's Dan Carter takes on the Pumas' defence, New Zealand v Argentina, Christchurch, New Zealand, July 17, 2015
New Zealand's Dan Carter takes on the Pumas' defence
© Getty Images
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New Zealand responded to their poor showing in Apia in fine fashion on Friday night to run out comfortable winners over Argentina in the opening match of the Rugby Championship.

The disjointed attack and leaky defence from 10 days ago was nowhere to be seen in Christchurch as the "Black Wave" rolled into gear to fire an ominous warning to their Rugby World Cup rivals. The world champions had far too much strikepower for their overwhelmed opponents, making the Pumas pay for several simple mistakes.

Fly-half Dan Carter was particularly impressive in the 39-18 victory, and has surely now shaken off any lingering doubt as to whether he is the man to pilot the All Blacks in their World Cup defence. The only real concern of an otherwise polished performance will have been back-to-back tries to the Pumas midway through the second half, both of which came from rolling mauls.

New Zealand 39-18 Argentina (Australia only)

"I thought we played some pretty good rugby there at times, and there were a some wee lapses there in the second half where I think our discipline let us down where we didn't need to and they scored a couple of tries off the back of that," All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said. "But all in all, it was a step up (from Apia), and I think most of the guys would be reasonably happy."

Coach Steve Hansen, highly critical of the effort in Apia, was pleased his side had responded in such resounding fashion.

"It was a big step up from where we were," he said. "It has been a big week. A lot of people have been under pressure. Some individuals who probably haven't played as well as they would have liked in Super Rugby and in last week's Test match have stepped up."

The All Blacks were first on the board via the boot of Carter, the veteran No.10 shading the inside of the upright from just to the right of the posts in an unconvincing, but successful, first attempt on six minutes. Greasy conditions saw both sides struggle with their handling inside the opening 10 minutes with New Zealand centres Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu both grassing regulation passes. Referee Craig Joubert was having trouble getting a steady scrum, too, but it was Richie McCaw who would concede the first penalty for the hosts - the skipper judged to have not rolled away at the breakdown - and Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez levelled the scores.

Carter put the All Blacks back in front with his second penalty of the evening on 16 minutes and that seemed to spring the hosts into action as full-back Israel Dagg made a break shortly after the re-start to set the play down-field. Carter himself was eventually pulled down just short of the line; but after earning a penalty, the All Blacks kicked for the corner and laid on a lineout move for McCaw to score the game's opening try. Carter failed to land the extras from wide out, leaving the score 11-3 after 22 minutes.

Waisake Naholo didn't look out of place in his first Test © Getty Images
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If conceding a soft try from a set-move wasn't bad enough, Pumas fly-half Sanchez confounded his side's misery by kicking out on the full; the All Blacks weren't able to make the most of the centre-field scrum however with debutant Waisake Naholo knocking on out wide. The Highlanders winger did enjoy a carving run through the middle of the Pumas' defence a short while later; proving his sensational form wouldn't be confined to Super Rugby.

A second penalty to Sanchez following an unsuccessful long-range attempt from Marcelo Bosch cut the deficit to five points but it would be the All Blacks with the last laugh of the first half. A second failed restart from Sanchez gave the All Blacks field position on the visitors 22 and, after a series of sweeping phases to both sides of the field, Nonu bumped off three defenders to power his way over from close range. Carter slotted the conversion to send the All Blacks to the sheds at 18-6 to the good.

The hosts picked up where they left off straight after the break with a try just three minutes after the resumption. Carter even had time to miss a penalty before the All Blacks jumped on an Argentina turnover, put the ball through a couple of phases and used some slick passing to put Charles Piutau over for their third try. Three very nearly became four just a couple of minutes later only for winger Naholo to fumble the ball in the corner.

The Pumas had struggled to clear their line throughout the first half and they decided to try a new method of moving down field by running the ball out from inside their own 22. It failed. A succession of sideways phases were easily defended by the All Blacks and when a loose pass hit the ground, No.8 Kieran scooped up the ball to cross for the bonus-point try.

All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read had a busy game in both attack and defence © Getty Images
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The South Americans had barely sighted the All Blacks' 22 inside the first 40 minutes but with a powerful rolling maul up their sleeve, they had the ability to be a threat when they did. That moment final arrived on 55 minutes as a penalty allowed Sanchez to kick deep into the corner; skipper Agustin Creevy peeling off the side of the drive to slide over for his first Test try. It was never going to be the start of an amazing comeback, but it at least gave the visitors something to build on for the remainder of the match.

Or would it? There had been a noticeable shift in momentum, and with the help of an All Blacks infringement, the Pumas found themselves back inside the All Blacks' half. A strong lineout drive saw them roll up field and win another penalty, from which they again went to the drive for Creevy to power over; this time with the help of two team-mates. Sanchez added the extras to soften the margin to 14 points, though an incredible comeback still carried lengthy odds.

And so it proved as the All Blacks picked up their fifth try through replacement, and debutant, hooker Codie Taylor nine minutes from time. Having been turned over on their own ball from the preceding five-metre scrum, the All Blacks then produced a powerful shove of their own to win the ball; Taylor driving his way over to make it a memorable first outing at Test level.

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