Argentina 13 New Zealand 34: Three talking points
Argentina 13 New Zealand 34: Three talking points as the All Blacks win in the Rugby Championship
All Blacks still the team to beat
Australia may have ended New Zealand’s winning streak by securing a draw in the opening round of the 2014 Rugby Championship, but that hasn’t stopped the world champions bouncing back to wrap up another title with a 34-13 win over Argentina in La Plata. From revenge with an emphatic victory over the Wallabies a week later to two wins over Argentina and one over the Springboks, the All Blacks have overcome much adversity in this campaign, which has seen key players unavailable, and wrapped up a third consecutive title with a game to spare ahead of next week’s trip to Johannesburg to take on South Africa, which should prove to be a typically brutal encounter. The worrying thing for anyone with eyes on taking their Rugby World Cup crown next year is that the All Blacks still are far from firing on all cylinders and, 12 months out with players like Dan Carter to return, they’re only going to get better. Even head coach Steve Hansen displayed a rare glimpse of happiness at the result. When that happens, something must be going well.
Pre-match Pumas hype falls flat
There was a genuine belief that this was the year that Los Pumas could finally get a win in the Rugby Championship – they even thought they could beat New Zealand at home. Instead, they shipped four tries with Beauden Barrett – in for the dropped Aaron Cruden after his boozy shenanigans led to him missing a flight – kicking 14 points. It wasn’t through want of trying – there was plenty of endeavour from the Pumas. Argentina are notoriously passionate, as highlighted during the national anthems and the way they fronted up to the haka, but even their Europe-based players couldn’t help them as Izzy Daag and Julian Savea led the riot charge from deep. The hosts did manage to breach the All Blacks defence once as Horacio Agulla crossed at the death, but by then the match had already gone – it was scant consolation from a match in which they offered a lot going forward, but handling errors at key moments proved costly. Something no team can afford against the ruthless world champions. It has become a frustrating cliche around Argentine rugby, but they’re not too far from getting a win in the Rugby Championship – they’re just still a long way off being able to challenge the All Blacks. Best stick to hoping to catch the Aussies on a bad day.
Try machine Savea set to light up England 2015
His record would be extraordinary at any level of sport, but to do it on the international stage as part of the All Blacks makes Julian Savea something out of this world. Savea’s try-scoring record with the All Blacks is 1.00 – 27 Tests, 27 tries and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The northern hemisphere teams will likely get a very close look at him in action during this year’s autumn internationals in November, but getting near him is only half the battle. Stopping him is the problem and, even then, there is still the threat of big runners like Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, who was a beast against the Pumas from inside centre and is constantly growing into his role as an All Black, whether at 12 or 13. For all the talk of the All Blacks being an ageing side and there for the taking, anyone daring to be complacent, will find themselves on the end of an old-fashioned humiliation. Old boys like Richie McCaw – who made a record-equalling 133rd appearance for the All Blacks on Saturday – and Keven Mealamu, who was drafted into the starting XV late from the bench, proved they’re far from past it. England sampled that at times during their summer tour of New Zealand as did Ireland in Dublin almost 12 months ago, but while the heart of New Zealand’s forward pack may be ageing they have threats all over the park who are just waiting to shine given half a chance. Undoubtedly, Savea – the 2010 IRB Junior Player of the Year – will be the man to light up England 2015.