The All Blacks have repelled a rousing performance from Argentina, scoring six tries to win their Rugby Championship Test 46-24 in Nelson.
The resilient Pumas refused to lie down against the world champions, creating three tries of their own through the brilliance of five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez to follow up their last-start upset of South Africa.
However, they lacked the finishing power of the hosts, who bagged a third bonus point win of the Rugby Championship to move closer to defending their title.
Playing their first-ever Test in the South Island city, a much-changed All Blacks side were guilty of uncharacteristic errors and couldn’t bust the Pumas open as easily as they could in successive wins over Australia last month.
They were more clinical after the break, crossing four times, including a second to halfback TJ Perenara to mark his first start in nearly a year.
Five-eighth Richie Mo’unga kicked 16 points in his maiden start but was untidy with his execution, typifying an over-exuberant display from the world champions.
His opposite Sanchez continued his brilliant form from the 32-19 triumph in Mendoza two weeks ago, scoring one try and setting up the other two in a 14-point display.
It means Argentina haven’t finished within 15 points of the All Blacks in all 12 of their Rugby Championship Tests.
However, their tenacious display – not helped by a hefty penalty count against them – will provide some confidence ahead of facing the Wallabies on the Gold Coast next week.
Three All Blacks left the field with injuries 10 minutes in following a bruising start.
Lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and inside centre Ngani Laumape (knee) didn’t return but fullback Ben Smith was cleared of a head knock.
Standout Pumas winger Ramiro Moyano weaved past the rattled hosts to for the game’s first try.
His opposite Nehe Milner-Skudder responded quickly with a try in his first Test for nearly a year before Perenara also stretched across.
Argentina centre Matias Moroni was unlucky not to score following a Sanchez break, with his foot barely scraping the dead ball line in Perenara’s tackle.
Mo’unga’s second penalty put New Zealand 18-7 up at halftime but the gap was reduced to four when the excellent Sanchez ghosted over.
Two All Blacks veterans combined when skipper Kieran Read scored from a Ben Smith break before Perenara’s second put the hosts 15 points clear entering the final quarter.
Fullback Emiliano Boffelli scythed over from a Sanchez short ball with 10 minutes to play before flanker Shannon Frizell and centre Jack Goodhue blew out the scoreline.
Goodhue was playing just his fourth test.
Both Frizell and Tu’inukuafe seized their opportunities with both hands, with the blindside flanker rampaging through the midfield off short passes from his fellow forwards, playing a full 80 minutes and finishing with a late try.
“I thought he played really well,” Hansen said of the 24-year-old. “He got to a point there where he could have gone either way but he got his second wind there and put himself forward just when we needed him to step up to the plate.”
Tu’inukuafe, who was a late call-up to the squad for the June series against France due to injury, overpowered Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, who was heavily penalised by referee Pascal Gauzerre, which gave the All Blacks momentum.
The 23-year-old Goodhue, who made his debut in the third test against France, also looked like he had been playing test rugby for years rather than weeks and is fast looming as the team’s first-choice centre.
The All Blacks had to deal with two early injuries with lock Brodie Retallick (arm) and midfield back Ngani Laumape (knee) being replaced within seconds of each other in the 10th minute.
Hansen said the way the team, especially Mo’unga, had rallied to deal with the reshuffles and then snuff out the Pumas’ pressure had been most heartening for him looking ahead to next year’s tournament in Japan.
“They experienced something they haven’t before. It’s big step up from Super Rugby,” Hansen said.
“We kept letting them (Argentina) back into it. It’s a good lesson for our group… There was a period there where we didn’t touch the ball for 20 minutes.
“We let them have one try and it could have been two or three (so)… what pleased me the most was the mental fortitude: when we got put under pressure we stayed in the fight and didn’t panic.”
(Source:Radio New Zealand)