New Zealand held off an Argentina fightback to secure a narrow 20-16 victory in their opening match of the Rugby Championship in Buenos Aires.
Ngani Laumape scored first to put the All Blacks, who will bid to win their third successive World Cup later this year, in front before Brodie Retallick extended the visitors’ lead to 20-9 at the interval.
Emiliano Boffelli crossed early in the second half as the hosts piled on the pressure in the hope of an upset.
But, despite being some way short of their best, the All Blacks held firm to see out the match and extend their unbeaten record against Argentina to 29 games.
New Zealand chalked up a 450th Test win despite resting many of the Canterbury Crusaders stars who won a third consecutive Super Rugby title two weeks ago.
Playmaker Nicolas Sanchez missed a kickable penalty soon after the restart that would have reduced the gap to a single point before a large, passionate home crowd.
A measure of the dominance of the hosts was that it took the visiting side 33 minutes of the second half to get into the Argentine 22.
At the death, the Pumas forced two lineouts close to the All Blacks line, but the try that would have given them a historic victory proved elusive.
New Zealand gave first caps to run-on winger Sevu Reece and substitutes Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson and Braydon Ennor, and coach Steve Hansen was generally pleased.
“I observed a lot of things, and most of them were positive,” said the 2015 World Cup-winning coach.
“These are young guys and they were thrust into Test rugby in one of the most intimidating sporting environments in the world.
“We were rusty at times which can be partly explained by the fact that we were testing new combinations.
“I thought our defending was outstanding, but we let a few scoring opportunities slip. We will grow from here in the Rugby Championship.”
South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus has named a strong 26-man squad for the Springboks‘ latest training camp as they continue their preparations for the forthcoming international season.
Frans Steyn, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Rynardt Elstadt have been included in the squad that gathered in Pretoria on Sunday.
There are a handful of English-based players in the group, with Vincent Koch (Saracens), Franco Mostert (Gloucester), Faf De Klerk (Sale Sharks) and Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints) all selected by Erasmus.
Players from the Bulls and Sharks who took part in the weekend’s Super Rugby quarter-final matches will join the camp in the coming days.
The Springboks kick off their shortened Rugby Championship campaign on July 20 against the Wallabies in Johannesburg facing New Zealand in Wellington a week later.
The Boks conclude the championship against Argentina on August 10 in Salta, while the two teams will meet again a week later in Pretoria in a one-off Test before South Africa report for Rugby World Cup training.
Provided by Press Association Sport
The UAE will take on Thailand for the right to earn a spot back in Division I of the Asia Rugby Championship on Saturday after dishing out a gargantuan 82-7 pasting to minnows Guam on Wednesday.
Apollo Perelini’s side sauntered to a huge win in Hua Hin – a refreshing return to international action having missed out on the ARC last year due to an internal decision.
The UAE, ranked 70th in World Rugby’s hierarchy, a place below Guam (69th), made light work of their opponents, with Dubai Exiles No8 Jaen Botes and Dubai Hurricanes centre Sakiusa Naisau both crossing for hat-tricks.
It was a tight first 40 minutes saw the UAE taking a slender 19-7 lead into the break thanks to two tries from Botes, with Brian Ramiro dotting down for Guam’s only score of the match.
In the second half the UAE ran away with the match, scoring nine converted tries with Botes and Naisau both securing hat-tricks. Kinivilame Natuna also crossed for two tries while there was one each for Exiles duo Ed Armitage and Matt Mills, as well as Jebel Ali Dragons’ full-back Matt Richards and a score on his record-extending 26th UAE cap for the recalled and out of retirement Chris Jones-Griffiths.
Hosts Thailand beat Kazakhstan 38-20 in the second game of the day to set up a final with the UAE.
The winner of the match will gain promotion to Division I, taking a step closer to the top echelon of rugby in Asia, as well as also taking a step towards the – however unlikely – Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification process.
Thailand responded to the UAE result with an impressive win of their own against Kazakhstan.
Despite conceding the first try to Stanislav Paceyev, tries from Wuttikorn Kaewkhiao, Kin Laksanasompong (2) and Pooreepong Wachirabunjong gave them a 28-10 lead at the break.
Kazakhstan hit back with three tries of their own from Daulet Akymbekov, Abdrakhman Nazhibayev and Dastan Suleimenov to make things interesting, but a fifth Thailand try from Panupong Puangpun secured a 38-20 win for the hosts.
The win will impact Thailand’s World Rugby rankings with Kazakhstan sitting 14 places above them in 62nd before the match.
12:30 Guam v Kazakhstan
14:15 UAE v Thailand