Wednesday, October 03, 2012

All Blacks flick switch in record Pumas win

By silencing a cauldron of Argentinian sporting passion the All Blacks also eased disquiet over the quality of their recent performances yesterday.
The tourists paraded the new symbol of southern hemisphere supremacy after overpowering Los Pumas by a record 54-15.

Although Argentina had not beaten the reigning world champions in 15 attempts, an impressive contribution to the inaugural Rugby Championship warranted a rendition of ‘Kapa O Pango' - and the All Blacks proceeded to pay their opponents another compliment by reserving their most compelling display of the year.
Their occasionally sublime seven-try triumph at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata was the All Blacks' biggest margin on Argentinian soil, eclipsing a 30-point win at Buenos Aires in 1991. It also extended their current winning sequence to 15 tests and raises the prospect of New Zealand completing the tournament unbeaten when they meet the Springboks in Johannesburg on Sunday.

When halfback Martin Landajo completed a counter-attacking raid usually associated with the world champions, a capacity crowd of 53,000 dared to dream the unthinkable.

However, by halftime the passion and expectation had drained from the crowd who later showed their appreciation as Aaron Cruden lined up the final conversion by lauding the All Blacks with a standing ovation.
A Cory Jane hat-trick - completed in the final minute - and a brace by his fast-developing fellow Hurricanes wing Julian Savea highlighted a comprehensive team effort where the contribution of the forwards should not be underestimated given their difficulties with Los Pumas and the South Africans last month.

Stung by criticism after less than convincing wins in Wellington and Dunedin, the All Blacks were under pressure to supply a performance befitting their world No 1 status and they were delighted to deliver in a traditionally testing environment.

“It's probably one of our best performances of the season,” said captain Richie McCaw, who had the luxury of spending the final quarter on the sideline alongside the returning Daniel Carter.
“When we started out [this year], the goal was to put last year behind us. We've got the tag of world champions and we needed to play like them.”

To secure the championship with a game in hand - and by finally collecting a four-try bonus point - was the best possible outcome from a road trip that now rates as their toughest assignment.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen concurred, after also commending Argentina's willingness to play expansively.

“We're very satisfied about the way we played. We train all week to do things with purpose and accuracy and by and large we achieved that," he said.
“Once we worked into the game and got our composure we scored some great tries. To be able to attack like that you've got to have a platform to attack off, so the forwards can be very proud.”

Halfback Aaron Smith cancelled out his rival's All Black-esque try in the ninth minute and from then on New Zealand exerted control in all facets as Carter marked his comeback from a calf injury with a typically assured performance.

 Hansen was pleased to give McCaw and Carter some respite once the result was beyond doubt, substitutions that provided valuable game time for Sam Cane and Cruden.

Jane was there for the duration, savouring every moment as the All Blacks rediscovered their try-scoring prowess on the back of the forwards' greater accuracy at the breakdown.

“We knew it was going to be tough so to put that performance out there, it's good," Jane said.
"Hopefully we'll get a couple of people off our back."

The 28-man squad have no serious injury concerns although lock Luke Romano, who was unable to return after halftime, and centre Conrad Smith required stitches to close gashes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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