New Zealand beat Argentina 39-22 in a pulsating Rugby Championship Test match at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth, claiming a bonus-point victory.
The All Blacks scored six tries to one in, dominating a hard fought contest where Beuden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga’s poor kicking, kept the South Americans in the game.
Argentina led by one point at the break, keeping pace with the World Champions, who had a blistering first 40 minutes. But it did not last.
Nicolás Sánchez starred for Los Pumas, claiming a first-half full house: a try, two penalties, a conversion and a drop goal, scoring 16 points.
However, after two early penalties gave Argentina a 15-22 50th- minute lead, Steve Hansen’s men hit back in vintage Kiwi fashion, scoring a sensational try through Vaea Fifita.
Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett, who scored at the death, saw their team over the line.
The loose forward was immense, having a hand in three of the All Blacks’ tries as the home team kept their lead at the top of the Rugby Championship table with a third win.
New Zealand scored tries through Nehe Milner-Skudder, back in an All Blacks jersey for the first time since the 2015 World Cup final win over Australia.
Anton Lienert-Brown was soon over to give the Kiwis a 10-9 lead before the half hour mark. Sánchez kicked a penalty and a drop goal either side of Emiliano Boffelli’s monster penalty from 51 metres.
Despite the All Blacks dominance, Argentina found a way to stay within sight. The Kiwis could and should have scored more, but for some strong defending by the visitors.
With three minutes remaining before the break, Israel Dagg scored his team’s third try. But, some wayward kicking by Beauden Barrett, who missed all three conversions, the Pumas only trailed by six.
Then bang! They hit back after some powerful drives near the Kiwi’s goal line. Skipper Agustín Creevy went close before Sánchez darted inside McKenzie’s tackle to score beside the posts.
The fly-half’s conversion gave his team a slender lead, against the run of play, at the interval.
Boffelli kicked another huge kick, followed up by another Sánchez three-pointer as the Argentinians took an early seven-point lead after 50 minutes.
But, they should have opted for more scrums instead of kicking, as the All Blacks hit back with a sensational try by Vaea Fifiti, who burnt several Pumas’ defenders before scoring in the corner.
Lima Sopoaga, on for Barrett, who had earlier been yellow carded, levelled the scores from the touch line.
Ten minutes’ later, McKenzie scored to extend his team’s lead. Sopoaga kicked the conversion and a penalty, made it 32-22 with nine left to play.
Argentian had no answers to the wave of New Zealand attacks, and they folded when Barrett went over before the end.
Final Score: New Zealand 39 (15) Argentina 22 (16)
Tries – Milner-Skudder, Lienert-Brown, Dagg, Fifita, McKenzie, B. Barrett
Pen – Sopoaga
Con – Sopoaga (3)
Cards – B. Barrett (Yellow, 50th minute)
Tries – Sánchez
Pen – Sánchez (2), Boffelli (2)
Con – Sánchez
Drop – Sánchez
Referee: Angus Gardner (ARU)
Assistant Ref 1: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Ref 2: Matthew Carley (RFU)
TMO: George Ayoub (ARU)
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Ngani Laumape.
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 4 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 3 Nahuel Tetaz, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Matías Orlando