New Zealand produced both scintillating and disappointing rugby to beat Argentina in a “game of two halves” in Buenos Aires, dazzling to claim a 29-3 lead at the interval but then held scoreless until injury time at the end of the second stanza when David Havili scored on debut after a move from a five-metre scrum.
Both teams had two players sent to the sin bin, with the yellow cards for Matt Todd and Kieran Read either side of halftime slowing New Zealand’s momentum. Read, the All Blacks captain, was perhaps fortunate, however, not to have been issued a straight red card for his high tackle on centre Matias Orlando.
Damian McKenzie produced another man-of-the-match at fullback, combining with Beauden Barrett to open the Pumas’ defence almost at will in the first half, before he was replaced by Havili in the second stanza.
The All Blacks dominated from the off, after Argentina failed to collect the kick-off, and they opened the scoring with an early penalty before Sonny Bill Williams and Waisake Naholo combined to put Read into space to dive over.
McKenzie then scored after taking a quick tap close to the line, Barrett produced a sublime pass to put Naholo away, and the playmakers combined in the lead-up to Read’s second try, in the 27th minute, as the All Blacks threatened to run away with the match after the draw between South Africa and Australia had guaranteed them another Rugby Championship title.
But they would not score again until the 81st minute, after Argentina had finally shown themselves to be a worthy opponent and gained just reward for an improved effort with a try from veteran No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon.