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.”
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