They knew it would be tough; possibly their toughest group game and after Saturday’s upset of Japan beating South Africa, another shock was always possible.
Nerves were settled in the 4th minute when Carter slotted home the first of 4 penalties. The lead extended to 9-0 by midway through the half and the All Blacks looked in relative control, Argentina a man down with Matera in the sin bin.
The Argentines kept pushing and were rewarded with a try after some excellent picking and driving, Guido Petti getting over the line but injuring himself in the process.
Argentina won a penalty and tried to take it quickly but it appeared it was spilled forward. The referee went to the TMO which clearly showed Richie McCaw tripping the Argentine number 10. He was duly sent to the sin bin to a chorus of boos.
From the resulting penalty Sanches scored and gave the Pumas the lead, putting a real upset firmly on the cards.
The Argentines continued to push and more sloppy play and ill discipline saw another Argentine penalty in front of the posts. With Conrad Smith also being despatched to the sin bin, the All Blacks would finish the first half with 13 men. Sanchez converted to make the score 13-9. A penalty in the last minute saw the All Blacks go into the break trailing by a single point.
The second half started much the same as the first with Argentina scoring another penalty to lead 16-12. Coach Steve Hansen then introduced new blood from the bench and the All Blacks looked like they would step up and take the game on from there.
The introduction of Sonny Bill Williams proved to be the difference and the All Blacks looked more dominant. He almost scored early into the second half, driving for the line and off-loading to Skudder who spilled the pass. It was an error that prompted Coach Hansen’s post game press conference comment that he “butchered a try”…he sure did!
Aaron Smith soon gave the All Blacks the lead again. After winning a scrum he made a dash for the line to score and with Carter adding the extras, the All Blacks were ahead 19-16. The final score of the game saw Cane go over following a good move.
Credit to Argentina who did not let New Zealand settle at all and broke up play very well throughout the game.
With critics subsequently questioning the All Black’s discipline, Steve Hansen said he was “not concerned by it but it would be addressed”.
All in all, a less than impressive start from the All Blacks, but with a couple of relatively easier games to iron out the rustiness coming up, the All Blacks machine should hit top gear when it needs to. At this stage a win is a win.