Argentina ran with New Zealand for an hour before buckling late under the pressure and falling to a 39-22 loss. It was a wild game that was better than it had any right to be, given the performance of the two sides in the first two rounds. Here is what we learned from the contest in New Plymouth:
Argentina doesn’t lack for passion
You can say many things about how Argentina has fallen off at the top level of the game over the last couple of years. There are many reasons for this decline – such as the residency requirement to play – but the Pumas do not lose games because of a lack of passion or desire to go out there and represent their country.
If you could bottle the pride and the joy of the players (and fans) during the national anthem then this would have been a game decided by a try or less. Unfortunately, passion can only carry you so far and while Argentina was in this one for 60 minutes, they eventually fatigued and the All Blacks took over the game with their customary big finish.
The All Blacks strength in depth is scary
New Zealand made seven changes to the team that beat Australia in Round 2 of the Rugby Championship a fortnight ago. In most countries bringing in seven new players would result in an overall drop in quality throughout the side. The All Blacks have no such problems.
From the start, those new players were involved in the action. Vaea Fifita was blasting his way over defenders in the middle of the field, TJ Perenara was acting as the fast playing number 9 the All Blacks require and Nehe Milner-Skudder was giving the Pumas nightmares on the left wing. The All Blacks has a legitimate squad of 30-35 players who are among the very best in the world and when any combination of those players hits the field and stays within the game plan, they are going to be very difficult to beat.
Argentina just can’t resist an offload
It would be infuriating coaching the Pumas. Argentina does a lot of things right in games, but they let themselves down with their discipline at key times. Penalties can sometimes be an issue – though they weren’t particularly in this one. Additionally, the team also has a “hero ball” complex where they want to make the miracle offload and score on every single phase.
Early in the game, the Argentinians kept it simple. They ran twelve or thirteen phases in a row and got to the All Black try line. It was the direct and aggressive style they need to use. After that though, they had a habit of throwing the crazy offload that all too often plagues them in close games.
The kicking game was huge
The Pumas took a stunning 16-15 lead into the break on the back of their strong kicking game and the All Blacks’ weak one. Beauden Barrett had a shocker with the boot in the first half, missing all three of his penalties.
On the contrary, Emiliano Boffelli seems to have a boot with unlimited range and accuracy. Boffelli was bombing the All Blacks with kicks from inside his own half – or just in the New Zealand half from crazy angles – in a mess of wind and rain no less. You cannot give the Argentinians penalties anywhere near the attacking zone when their winger is in this kind of kicking form.
It was all going so well until a charged down box kick changed the flow of the game and the Kiwis took over.
Vaea Fifita is something else
Of all the replacements that New Zealand brought in for this one, it was Fifita that shone brightest. An early run – where he knocked over four Argentina defenders like skittles – was impressive, but it was his run for the All Blacks’ fourth try that was simply jaw-dropping.
The 25-year-old took a pass from Perenara just inside the 15-metre channel, fully 30 metres from the Argentina line. What happened next had to be seen to be believed as Fifita galloped around the corner like a thoroughbred racehorse. His high knee stride makes him travel faster than you would think possible as he burned the Argentine backs to the corner for a scintillating try. He is going to be an outstanding All Black for years to come.
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