New Zealand beat Argentina 46-24 in a historic and entertaining Rugby Championship Test at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
TJ Perenara grabbed a brace in the nine-try thriller in the country’s South Island as the All Blacks continued their unbeaten start to the tournament and against Los Pumas.
Nicolas Sanchez became Argentina’s highest Test points scorer, overtaking the great Felipe Contepomi, collecting 14 of his team’s 24 points.
The visitors dominated every facet of the game except the scrums and the scoreboard, conceding tries after every score.
The game was tight with only eight points separating the two teams with less than nine minutes remaining before the world champions showed their class and pulled away with two late tries.
Steve Hansen made changes all over the park for this game with one eye on the Springboks in Wellington, next weekend.
Richie Mo’unga made his debut in the place of Beauden Barrett while Ben Smith moved to fullback from wing for Jordie Barrett.
Nehe Milner-Skudder took Smith’s place for a long-awaited return to the All Blacks team.
Perenara started in place of Aaron Smith with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi getting a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Karl Tu’inukuafe replaced Joe Moody at loosehead with Tim Perry moving onto the subs’ bench.
Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell came in for Sam Cane and Liam Squire.
Despite all the changes, New Zealand never looked like they would not win.
Their riches in reserves and strength of depth is the envy the world over.
It is always a case of “next man up” which was perfectly summed up by new halfback pairing.
Perenara’s performance in place of Aaron Smith, who is the game’s premier scrumhalf, was excellent and Mo’unga looked like a Test veteran.
Argentina, fresh off another famous win over South Africa were looking for their first win against the All Blacks in their history.
They have only ever managed a draw against the Kiwis and despite today’s display, never looked like ending the poor run of results.
New Zealand kicked an early penalty but had Brodie Rettalick, Ben Smith and Ngani Laumape all leave the field inside the opening 10 minutes through injury.
Los Pumas capitalised, scoring a wonderful try through Ramiro Moyano.
The winger stepped inside Mo’unga, swerved past Codie Taylor and beat Perenara to score in the corner.
As is the story for all comers versus New Zealand, they cannot manage to keep out the Hansen’s men after scoring.
The score-tracker told a tale: Argentina try, New Zealand try straight afterwards.
Frizell, who had the game of his life was everywhere; busting through gaps in midfield, linking with the backs and a brick wall in defence, crashed over.
Frizell combined with Goodhue, who offloaded to Taylor.
The hooker threw a long pass to Milner-Skudder for the try.
It was end-to-end as both teams threw the ball around, probing each other’s defence.
Then on the half-hour, Perenara sniped around a ruck, extending the lead.
New Zealand went 11 phases. Goodhue and Franks went close after Scott Barrett’s carry before the scrumhalf reached out for the score.
Sanchez and Emiliano Boffelli were causing the home team problems with their jinking runs and eye for a gap.
Mo’unga added three more before halftime.
The second half started with a bang.
Argentina won another turnover, this time from the restart and went through multiple phases.
They battered New Zealand’s try-line with pick-and-goes before Sanchez darted through a small gap.
His conversion made it 18-14.
New Zealand started to get their driving maul going after having some ball stolen in the lineouts.
Agustin Creevy was by-passed by Damian McKenzie. The ball shifted wide through the hands to Goodhue and Kieran Read, who crashed over in the corner.
It was a typical Read score, his 24th Test try.
Sanchez kicked a penalty to become the record points scorer, but a wayward kick set the All Blacks in motion for another score.
Savea burst a tackle, Anton Lienert-Brown hit a gap and sent Perenara away for his second.
But the South Americans did not go away and as always, all good things come through their majestical flyhalf.
From first-phase ball and a centre-field scrum, Boffelli looped around, timing his run perfectly before taking Sanchez’s no-look pass to cap off an impressive individual performance with a deserved try.
Sanchez’s conversion made it an eight-point deficit, giving the Pumas time for an unlikely chance of a comeback.
It was not to be because the Kiwis went up another gear.
They went 16 phases, patiently waiting for the moment to strike.
It was the immense Frizell who rounded off a magnificent move, capped off by some razzle-dazzle by Damian McKenzie.
Goodhue had the final say of this thrilling Test after some more magic from McKenzie to send him away.
Final score: New Zealand 46 (18) Argentina 24 (7)
Tries – Milner-Skudder, Perenara (2), Read, Frizell, Goodhue
Pen – Mo’unga (2)
Con – Mo’unga (5)
Tries – Moyano, Sanchez, Boffelli
Pen – Sanchez
Con – Sanchez (3)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)
Assistant Ref 1: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Ref 2: Nic Berry (ARU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)
15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Chaparro Tetaz, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Gaston Cortez, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Bautista Ezcurra, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia.