BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – Even with a reshuffled baseline and a whole new group of attackers from the week before, New Zealand had enough firepower to beat Argentina 36-13 to overtake Africa South at the top of the rugby world rankings in a worrying warm-up for the 100th test between the two nations.
The All Blacks had to beat the Pumas by 15 points to regain the top of the table after Australia claimed back-to-back wins over the World Cup champions Springboks with a 30-17 win in the doubles program opener Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
With 11 changes to the starting XV from last week’s 39-0 victory over Pumas, including regular-back Damien McKenzie playing in the opening post, New Zealand dominated early but had to struggle hard. in the second half before moving to 4-0 to lead the Rugby Championship and extending its winning streak to nine tests.
“It is clear that we had a number of new combinations but… delighted with the victory,” said All Blacks head coach Ian Foster. “I keep rehearsing a bit, but each team will have to dig deep into their well over the next two weeks (two weeks) and the strategy of how we got into this game puts us in a pretty promising position.”
Lockdown Patrick Tuipulotu, scrum-half TJ Perenara and Tupou Vaa’i – long after the halftime siren – scored tries and the New Zealanders led 24-3 at the break, despite three downs being denied.
It was 29-6 when hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho touched down in the right corner six minutes into the second half, but Argentina then recovered.
After the big loss on the Gold Coast in the last start, the Pumas played with more discipline and rallied around opener Santiago Carreras to come back to 29-13 in the 51st minute.
Winger Emiliano Boffelli caught a perfectly placed cross kick from Carreras and dove into the left corner for Argentina’s first try in two games, then converted it from the sideline.
The New Zealanders missed another scoring opportunity when substitute scrum-half Finlay Christie charged Carreras’ clearance kick but missed the ball at close range.
The Argentina spent a long time in the attacking quarter, applying all the pressure but unable to convert it to points, until the All Blacks finished with a second try at Vaa’i with three minutes remaining.
“In the second half we probably paid the price for missing out on a few opportunities and Argentina really grew up because of that. They came back really, really well, ”said Foster. “This 10 to 15 minute spell towards the end, we’ve been very tenacious… and it will be very useful for what is to follow.”
Argentina are now 0-4 in the rugby championship ahead of next Saturday’s test against Australia, who are 2-2 in the tournament.
Pumas coach Mario Ledesma praised the improvement in his squad, but said there has to be a bigger lift if Argentina are to register a victory in the tournament.
“Very proud of the effort and the commitment,” said Ledesma. “Big jump from last weekend, but we still have to improve.”
The major goal next Saturday in the double header in Townsville, in the Australian upstate of Queensland, is the All Blacks against the Springboks.
Foster watched the first 50 minutes of the Australia-Springboks game and said it was “probably the first time the South Africans have played with a team that play with a lot of pace in the past two years. They will learn a lot from this. “
He expected a typically “hot” match to mark the century of testing between the All Blacks and the Springboks.
“Believe me, we like to play test matches but we really like playing South Africa, probably because of the respect we have for them,” said Foster. “Throughout history, it’s been an exceptional rivalry, so we don’t really talk about No. 1 and No. 2 so much.
“We’re lucky to go to Townsville, play an enemy we have a lot of respect for and put ourselves in a pretty good position in this championship.”
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