Pumas' grit makes All Blacks dig deep

New Zealand's Israel Dagg charging his way through Argentina's defence to score a try. The Pumas gave the All Blacks, who will play the Springboks on Saturday in Auckland, a scare before the home side ran out convincing winners.
New Zealand's Israel Dagg charging his way through Argentina's defence to score a try. The Pumas gave the All Blacks, who will play the Springboks on Saturday in Auckland, a scare before the home side ran out convincing winners.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW PLYMOUTH (New Zealand) • The All Blacks unleashed "the beast" as they came from behind to beat a fired-up Argentina 39-22 in a Rugby Championship Test in New Plymouth yesterday.

Blindside flanker Vaea Fifita turned the game with a 50-metre try 10 minutes into the second half when the All Blacks were down by seven points.

Coach Steve Hansen had billed Fifita as a "real physical beast" before the game and the 25 year-old did not disappoint, crashing his way through the Los Pumas backline.

"I don't think he's the finished product. He's got a long way to go. But it's a tank that's got plenty in it and our job now is to bring that out, and his job is to work on his game and get better and better and reach his potential," Hansen said.

It was a Test the All Blacks were never expected to lose - having won 24 previous matches against the Argentinians - and they won the try count six to one.

But they were made to struggle for long periods by a Pumas side determined to prove they still belong among the leading rugby nations.

"The Argentinians really brought it to us," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said. "We certainly had to work for that. It was a tough Test match. I'm really pleased with the way the boys stuck at it."

Hansen also believes that the game gave his players a chance to "learn about ourselves".

"We had moments where we had to battle and think through stuff that didn't come easy for us," the 58-year-old New Zealander said.

"Being put under pressure by line speed is good for us. We are trying to play this brand of rugby that everyone wants us to play and we are going to have to get better at it."

Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez gave his side a 22-15 lead with about 30 minutes remaining, but Fifita's blistering pace then lifted the home side and they finally took the sort of control over the game that had been expected.

"The tempo of the All Blacks killed us a bit in the last minutes," said Pumas scrum-half Tomas Cubelli.

The All Blacks take on South Africa in Auckland while the Pumas face the Wallabies in Canberra on Saturday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Pumas' grit makes All Blacks dig deep'. Print Edition | Subscribe