The win means the All Blacks remain unbeaten after the third round of the Championship.
A brief spurt before half-time and again in the closing minutes made the difference for Steve Hansen’s men against an unpredictable Pumas attack.
It marked the first time the All had played a Test in Nelson, nearly 150 years after the city hosted the historic first game of rugby in New Zealand, and they did that by outscoring the Pumas six tries to three to claim the bonus point.
But it did not come easy against an Argentina side boosted by a convincing win over South Africa and who were ahead 7-3 after 15 minutes in their search for a first ever win over New Zealand.
But, before a capacity crowd of 21,400, they could not handle the All Blacks trade mark closing burst which produced two late converted tries.
It meant Argentina’s dismal record against the All Blacks slumped to one draw and 26 losses from 27 Tests and they are closing in on the unwanted record of the team to play the most matches against New Zealand without a win – currently held by Scotland on 31.
Richie Mo’unga put the All Blacks on the board in the second minute via a penalty.
Much had been made of Mo’unga getting a start at fly-half in only his second Test but it was flanker Shannon Frizell, on his first start, who made the biggest impact with his powerful running around the ruck.
A triple injury blow in the ninth minute for the All Blacks saw Ben Smith, Ngani Laumape (knee) and Brodie Retallick (shoulder) leave the field to be replaced by Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sam Whitelock.
In the 10 minutes it took Smith to return from his head injury assessment both sides had scored tries and the All Blacks were back in front 10-7.
Ramiro Moyano put Argentina briefly in front when he stepped around Mo’unga, TJ Perenara and Codie Taylor to score, while a Frizell rampage paved the way for Nehe Milner-Skudder to reply for the All Blacks.
Perenara extended the lead to 15-7 with a try diving around the side of a ruck, and when Matias Moroni was denied a try for Argentina when his foot brushed the touchline amid a superb Perenara tackle, Mo’unga ended the half with a second penalty for the All Blacks.
Nicolas Sanchez scored and converted to get Argentina within four points before Smith opened the lead with a try.
A penalty given away by Sanchez brought Perenara’s second try and when Sanchez put Emiliano Boffelli in to score in reply, the All Blacks came back with one through Frizell.
With time up, Jack Goodhue crashed over for the All Blacks’ sixth and bonus point try.
The All Blacks have triumphed 46-24 in Nelson over an impressive Pumas team.
Here’s how the highly entertaining match unfolded:
00 min: Tears from the Pumas in the national anthem, a ferocious haka from the All Blacks
1 min: Early penalty to the hosts but Richie Mo’unga misses touch. Not a great start for the new fly-half
2 min: Brodie Retallick falls hard on his right elbow and receives treatment. Could be an early replacement. Sam Whitelock is ready on the sideline.
3 mins: PENALTY to ALL BLACKS – All Blacks put on the heat at the first scrum and the Pumas pack folds like a deck of cards. Mo’unga lands the resulting penalty. ALL BLACKS lead 3-0
5 mins: Ardie Savea gives up a penalty from the kick off and Nicolas Sanchez goes for goal. He misses badly to the right.
9 mins: Great open passage of play but more injuries for the All Blacks. THREE CHANGES! Ben Smith in the bin for a HIA, Damian McKenzie on for him; Ngani Laumape off with a knee problem, Anton Lienert-Brown on; and Retallick goes for Sam Whitelock.
12 mins: All Blacks lose a line out on Pumas 22.
15 mins: TRY to PUMAS – Argentina move the ball quickly. Moyano finds himself in space on the left. He steps inside Mo’unga and then wrong foots TJ Perenara to score a superb solo try. Sanchez converts. PUMAS lead 7-3
16 mins: Ben Smith returns from his HIA. He’s okay. McKenzie back to the bench.
17 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – Shannon Frizzell has been impressive early. He makes another tackle bust to get the Pumas back-pedaling in their 22. The ball comes out to Codie Taylor who sends a long ball to Nehe Milner-Skudder who dives over in the corner. Mo’unga converts from the touchline. All Blacks back in front. ALL BLACKS lead 10-7
22 mins: All Blacks have two great chances to score but two knock-ons ruin the chances. The Pumas attack from within their own 22 and make some good yards down field. Great courage from the visitors. Hard to see the Boks or Wallabies doing that.
29 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – New Zealand attack close to the line with some powerful runs by Ardie Savea and Owen Franks. Jack Goodhue goes close and then Perenara finishes off with a sharp dive. Mo’unga misses the conversion. ALL BLACKS lead 15-7
34 mins: NO TRY to PUMAS – Poor defence from the All Blacks. Bad kick from Milner-Skudder and Sanchez ghosts through non-existent All Blacks tacklers. Great tackle from Perenara somehow prevents the try. Lucky break for All Blacks.
37 mins: More missed tackles by the All Blacks. First Agustin Creevy goes through from a ruck then Emiliano Boffelli slices the New Zealand defence open.
40 mins: PENALTY to ALL BLACKS: Referee Pascal Gauzere has been extremely tough at the break down on the Pumas caning the visitors in the penalty count 9-2. Must be seeing something I’m not. They get yet another penalty and Mo’unga extends the lead. ALL BLACKS lead 18-7
HALF-TIME: ALL BLACKS lead 18-7. Great first half of rugby. New Zealand have made eight handling errors to three from Argentina. Pumas unlucky not to be closer on the scoreboard, but will the visitors tire in the second half.
41 mins: TRY to PUMAS – Great start from Argentina. Some big tackles in the All Blacks 22 and they turn the ball over. They hold the ball and patiently probe the All Blacks line. The ball comes to Sanchez who steps through Franks non-existent tackle and scores. Sanchez converts his own try. ALL BLACKS lead 18-14
46 mins: Pumas deep on attack again and AGAIN another breakdown penalty won by Ardie Savea. All Blacks clear.
48 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – All Blacks line out on the Pumas 22. It’s over thrown by Codie Taylor but Argentina clear poorly. Waisake Naholo brings it back, then a great break by Ben Smith, ball comes wide to Goodhue who finds his captain Read and the No8 powers his way over. Mo’unga converts. ALL BLACKS lead 25-14
55 mins: PENALTY to PUMAS – Pumas on the attack and miracle! A breakdown penalty to Argentina. Sanchez lands it, in so doing becomes Argentina’s highest ever point scorer. ALL BLACKS lead 25-17
#RugbyChampionship— Cómo Te Atreves (@comoteatreves1) September 8, 2018
🇳🇿All Blacks 46-24 Los Pumas🇦🇷
15'🏉Try: Moyano (C: Sánchez)
42'🏉Try y conversión: Sánchez
70'🏉Try: Boffelli (C: Sánchez)
📷 @lospumas / @AllBlacks pic.twitter.com/yR2rtE8XUG
57 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – Some good defence from the Pumas but Lienert-Brown turns it on and bursts through the middle. Perenara is in support and takes the pass to dive over under the posts. Mo’unga converts. ALL BLACKS lead 32-17
62 mins: Nathan Harris is on for Taylor and loses his first lineout throw. Not a great start for the Chiefs No2.
64 mins: Another breakdown penalty against the All Blacks. Looks like Mr Gauzere has finally decided to start refereeing both teams.
67 mins: TRY to PUMAS – Pumas deep on the attack and another penalty against the All Blacks. Sanchez asks for a yellow card but Gauzere waves him away. Argentina set a scrum and they work a simple move with Boffelli wrapping around Sanchez and cutting straight through to score. Sanchez converts. ALL BLACKS lead 32-24
73 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – Quality sustained attack from the All Blacks and after 16 phases Frizell goes over from close to the line. The fans celebrate a try for the local boy. Mo’unga converts. ALL BLACKS lead 39-24
79 mins: TRY to ALL BLACKS – A Pumas error and the All Blacks turn it on. A bit of McKenzie magic and Goodhue goes over. Mo’unga converts. Very cruel on the Pumas as the score blows out. ALL BLACKS lead 46-24
FULL TIME: All Blacks win 46-24 but the 22-point margin doesn’t do justice to a superb Argentina performance.
The term ‘must-win’ clash is a too often used cliché in sport these days but this game actually deserves the descriptor.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is under mounting pressure after another disastrous Bledisloe Cup campaign and a record of just one win in Australia’s last seven Tests.
And Australia had two major blows to their chances with first David Pocock ruled out on Friday and then Israel Folau on the day of the game. It really is back to the wall time for the Wallabies.
Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus is also feeling the heat after South Africa’s surprise reversal a the hands of the Pumas in Mendoza last time out.
Here are our talking points ahead of the match:
Kurtley Beale in at No10
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Cheika has pulled the trigger on the “Ice man” Bernard Foley, dropping him to the bench in favour of shifting-in Kurtley Beale.
It’s a curious decision as Foley has been among the Wallabies best in recent seasons and Beale last played fly-half for the Wallabies over four years ago. Matt Toomua slots in at No12, where he played for Leicester Tigers last weekend in the 40-6 loss to Exeter.
Cheika obviously wants more involvement from his No10 as Beale was far more involved in the Wallabies loss to the All Blacks in Auckland with six kicks, 25 passes and 10 runs for 59 metres compared to Foley’s sparse 4 kicks, 19 passes and six runs for 43.
Although one of those runs was to set up Reece Hodge’s second half try – one of only two tries Australia scored on the night.
It’s certainly not going to help the Wallabies defensively as Beale missed six and made seven tackles in Auckland to Foley’s four tackles with just two misses.
David Pocock’s late scratching from Saturday’s Test against the Springboks because of a neck injury complaint makes @WorldRugby’s decision not to even cite Owen Franks for a clear as day neck roll in Bledisloe II even more farcical.— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) September 7, 2018
David Pocock a late scratching
This is deeply concerning not just for the Wallabies but World Rugby.
Pocock was ruled out of the test on Friday after failing to recover from neck problems caused by the All Blacks consistent use of illegal neck rolls to remove the Wallabies flanker from the ruck during the Bledisloe Cup series.
World Rugby is doing so much at present to try to protect players in the tackle zone but this just as dangerous practice is being neglected.
Perhaps its because the All Blacks are the major culprits.
Two great former Wallabies hit out on Instagram after news broke of Pocock’s late withdrawal, with David Campese leading the charge.
“Why do we have laws in rugby that are not enforced?” wrote Campese.
“The neck roll is illegal and very dangerous. As a parent with kids that play the game and a coach of grassroots rugby, I am appalled at an oversight of this nature. Where is the accountability from the referee or the IRB [World Rugby].”
David Wilson, the Wallabies’ No7 in the Rugby World Cup triumph of 1999, added: “It’s not just David, it’s any player in a ruck situation over the ball.
“If this is the way teams are going to move players off the ball, it’s a worry. It’s something that has to be closely looked at because yes, you protect the head. But you’ve got to protect the neck as well.”
Before Pocock’s late withdrawal the odds were tilting towards a Wallabies victory but with the turnover king now ruled out a Springbok win seems more probable.
Malcolm Marx will start from the bench? 🤔🤔— Zand!le Dubazana (@DubazanaZandile) September 6, 2018
Malcolm Marx benched
The spectre of a quota, where the Springboks have to pick a certain number of non-white players, is a constant sub-text in South African rugby as SARU work towards the stated goal of a 50-50 team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
To this end Rassie Erasmus has embraced the transformation agenda enthusiastically playing no less than six non-white players in each of his first five Tests, going as high as seven for the Wales Test in Washington DC and the third match against England.
He has wound this back to five for the Rugby Championship, which could be minimum number as the benching of Malcolm Marx makes no sense at all.
The rampaging Lions hooker is without doubt the best No2 in the world and although his replacement Bongi Mbonambi is a very fine player himself, there seems no other explanation for Marx’s demotion.
Then Erasmus made some very odd remarks after the loss in Argentina about no longer being able to rest players against Australia so perhaps this is more of a rotation policy, but this would make even less sense.
The Springboks need to go all out to win this one as they certainly won’t beat the All Blacks next week in Wellington.