CAPTAIN Richie McCaw scored a try and stand-off Dan Carter kicked 14 points in their last home Test in Christchurch as New Zealand beat Argentina 39-18 in the opening match of the Rugby Championship.
McCaw scored the first of New Zealand’s five tries in the 20th minute, while Carter kicked six goals from nine attempts to lift his world record points tally to 1,491 points in 104 Tests.
Carter will quit New Zealand rugby after this year’s World Cup to play for Racing Metro in France, while McCaw will retire after leading the All Blacks in their World Cup title defence in September.
McCaw’s 25th try in his 138th Test put the All Blacks up 11-3, as they worked hard to break down Argentina’s defence. Their relentless attacking pressure paid off as they scored three tries – by Ma’a Nonu, Charles Piutau and Kieran Read – in a nine-minute passage on either side of half-time to inflate their lead to 32-6 by the 48th minute.
Nonu crashed through three tackles to score his 27th Test try two minutes after the half-time siren sounded, giving New Zealand a decisive 18-6 lead at the break. Piutau scored in the 45th and No 8 Read in the 49th as the Argentina defence wilted in the face of the pace and scope of the All Blacks’ attack.
New Zealand’s ability to keep the ball alive and to offload in tackles – especially through Sonny Bill Williams in midfield – made the trio of tries around half-time seem inevitable.
The Pumas showed character to rally midway through the second half with two tries from massed lineout drives, both scored by captain Agustin Creevy in his 37th Test. Argentina went to attacking lineouts from penalties in the 56th and 62nd minutes, and on both occasions created controlled rolling mauls from which Creevy speared over.
The tries exposed a defensive weakness among the All Black forwards, a technical failure among a pack which boasts more than 600 Test caps. It was too easy on both occasions for Argentina first to win uncontested lineout takes, then to form mauls and wheel them into positions from which Creevy could attack the line.
McCaw was still pleased with the All Blacks’ performance. “That was definitely a step up from [the win in Samoa] last week. We played some pretty good rugby at times,” McCaw said. “There was a patch there in the second half where, if anything, our discipline let us down and they scored a couple of tries on the back end of that. All in all, it was a step up, and most of the guys were reasonably happy.”
The tries cut the All Blacks’ lead to 32-18 midway through the second half, but they regained composure and re-established their authority with a try on debut to hooker Codie Taylor in the 71st minute. The try came, significantly, from a tighthead, as the All Blacks wrecked Argentina’s scrum close to the goalline.
Creevy was pleased to achieve the rare feat of a try double against the All Blacks, but said his side will have to improve before the teams meet again at the World Cup in the first round of pool matches at Wembley on 20 September. “I’m happy with the tries but I know it was the work of the eight forwards,” Creevy said. “We are not happy with what we have shown today. We are going to have to improve a lot to compete with them [at the World Cup].”