Rugby Championship
Round one talking points, video highlights
Sam Bruce and Andy Withers
July 21, 2015

One third of this year's Rugby Championship is already in the books with the All Blacks and Wallabies accounting for the Pumas and Springboks, respectively, on the opening weekend of the shortened tournament.

The world champions were far too good for their South American opponents, albeit for a short lapse in concentration during the second half, but the storyline could not have been more different in Brisbane where the Wallabies stole an unlikely win with a try two minutes after the final hooter.

Read on as we review the action and watch video highlights from both contests.

New Zealand 39-18 Argentina (Australia only)
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New Zealand 39-18 Argentina

Lambasted for a lacklustre performance against Samoa in Apia, the All Blacks responded with a dominant display against a one-dimensional Argentina in Christchurch. The 21-point win also marked the "second" Christchurch farewell for veterans Dan Carter and Richie McCaw after the duo had waved goodbye in the red and black of the Crusaders earlier this season, the skipper marking the Test version with the evening's first try. That came via a smart set-piece play at the front of the lineout as McCaw rolled over with barely a Pumas hand laid on him. But it was also the lineout that gave the All Blacks their only real concern of the encounter after the world champions conceded two second-half tries from rolling mauls on their own line.

Hansen praises underdone Dagg
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Despite the ongoing dialogue about the rules that govern the controversial tactic - something All Blacks coach Steve Hansen added to post-game - bot of the Pumas' efforts appeared legal, perhaps opening up a chink in what is otherwise looking like robust All Blacks armour.

Earlier, the hosts had stormed out to a 32-6 lead after going into the break at 16-8 to the good; Charles Piutau and Kieran Read adding to the first-half tries scored by McCaw and centre Ma'a Nonu. Agustin Creevy's back-to-back five-pointers added some respectability to the scoreline but a comeback from the South Americans never seemed likely, and so it eventuated as debutant Codie Taylor crossed for the All Blacks. While Hansen will be slightly concerned with the ease at which the Pumas' rolling maul found success, the collective performance of the All Blacks, as well as the individual efforts of some under-fire stars, overshadowed the set-piece shakes.

Dan Carter turned in another controlled display at No.10 in Christchurch © Getty Images
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There'll be no Carter or Sonny Bill Williams in South Africa with Hansen opting to rest the key World Cup figures from the tough trip to the Republic. Contests between the world's top two rugby nations have provided some memorable contests in recent times and Hansen will know the need to improve from Christchurch if his side are to beat a wounded Springboks outfit. Hansen already has a couple of injury concerns on his hands, too, with debutant winger Waisake Naholo ruled out of the World Cup with a broken leg and Cory Jane picking up a an ankle injury while playing for the NZ Barbarians.

Australia 24-20 South Africa

Australia 24-20 South Africa (Australia only)
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The Wallabies made a winning start to their Rugby Championship campaign, defeating the Springboks in the most dramatic fashion when Tevita Kuridrani barely touched the ball down two minutes after the siren to cap a quite amazing comeback. The Boks had led 20-7 five minutes into the second stanza having bested the hosts at the breakdown and shut them down with a finely honed defensive line; victory seemed theirs even at that stage as the Wallabies seemed very limited in scope.

The Wallabies had led 7-6 after 33 minutes, but they had done so almost despite themselves. Michael Cheika's intent to play wide in order to stretch the Boks had actually played into the visitors' hands, for the Wallabies played laterally without straightening the point of attack; the Boks' physical back-row absolutely monstered Australia at the breakdown, and the hosts only really gained anything like parity when the master pilferer, David Pocock, replaced Scott Higginbotham in the second half. The Wallabies were also hindered by aimless and ill-judged kicking from re-starts and from hand to gift South Africa the cheapest of possession with which the visitors either launched a counter or commenced a territorial kicking duel of forcings-back they inevitably won. Cheika had hoped that a triple-playmaking threat of Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau would spark the outside backs, but the Wallabies were more threatening with ball in hand with Nick Phipps and Matt Toomua on the field; and Giteau, much as he showed he still has a Test-class game, did leave questions about his size and physicality to wear the No.12 jumper at this level.

Wallabies had right attitude - Cheika
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South Africa will wonder how they lost, as they had victory in their pocket at 20-7. But perhaps, they, too, thought victory was assured for they seemed to stop playing with the same intensity. Certainly their all-new front-row was not as stable in the scrum, with the Wallabies' Scott Sio also having a major impact in bettering Frans Malherbe. Most notably, after they had won one last breakdown in the final shadows of regulation, they seemed not to know what to do, as they had ceased to play, and they conceded a soft penalty from which the Wallabies kicked for the corner to commence the phases that would ultimately score the winning try.

Stephen Moore has spoken of developing a culture and spirit with the squad of which the nation can be proud; the team are well on the way for they certainly played with heart. There is much progress to make, but this was Australia's first game of the season and South Africa will also rightly point to their extensive injury list; we suggest both teams will be happy enough with the match as a measure from which they can gauge improvement.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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