New Zealand beats Argentina 36-17 in Rugby Championship
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — New Zealand took 28 minutes to break down Argentina's defense then ran in five tries within 15 minutes either side halftime to set up a 36-17 win over the Pumas in a Rugby Championship test on Sunday.
Rookie center Anton Lienert-Brown scored the first try and gave the last pass in three others as the All Blacks took a commanding 29-3 lead to halftime after leading 3-0 with almost a half-hour gone.
But the match became bogged down in the second half as South African referee Jaco Peyper dished out a string of penalties against New Zealand and sent two All Blacks to the sin-bin.
After trailing 36-3 in the 44th minute, the Pumas cut New Zealand's margin with two late tries.
Argentina caused New Zealand a few uncomfortable moments in the first 20 minutes when it made good use of capable ball-carriers Agustin Creevy and Facundo Isa. But the All Blacks' defense initially was equal to the challenge and the Pumas were allowed only a single first-half penalty goal to flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.
Peyper's performance in the second half is likely to come under scrutiny with more than 10 minutes of scrums set and re-set near the All Blacks' line. During that period Peyper awarded 10 consecutive penalties against New Zealand and yellow-carded two All Blacks: prop Joe Moody for a swinging arm and flanker Liam Squire for offside play.
The Pumas went for scrums rather than kicks at goal, trying to take advantage of an All Blacks pack reduced to seven men. After many attempts, they eventually scored through Isa.
Even under-manned, the All Blacks scrum held Argentina's and that led to a series of collapses which resulted in re-sets and caused the game to stagnate. New Zealand had reached a 36-3 lead after 44 minutes, then became bogged down in a scrum-fest.
Isa's try made the score 36-10 and fullback Joaquin Tuculet scored three minutes before fulltime to further reduce the margin.
Argentina ended the game with 14 men after running out of replacements and lost Isa in the final moments to what seemed a serious leg injury.
While their discipline may be called into question, the All Blacks' composure and resilience under immense pressure was impressive, particularly as many of their lineup Saturday were new to test rugby.
Lienert-Brown was a shining light in attack and scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, in his first start this season, had a strong game, starting and finishing a length-of-the-field try just before halftime.
Beauden Barrett was steady at flyhalf and winger Ben Smith was a constant attacking threat when the All Blacks were able to move the ball wide.
Utility Damian McKenzie, who came off the bench for his test debut in the 49th minute, just before the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men for the first time, defended superbly.
Lienert-Brown made his presence felt in only his fourth test, scoring in the 28th minute when the All Blacks opted for a scrum from an attacking penalty. After probing the blindside, New Zealand moved the ball into the open field and Lienert-Brown ran strongly onto a pass from Barrett.
Lienert-Brown handed off to his midfield partner Ryan Crotty for the second try in the 36th minute when Creevy over-threw at a defensive lineout. He charged down Sanchez' clearing kick two minutes later, regathered the ball and passed to Coles who scored.
Perenara scored the All Blacks' fourth try before halftime when he ran back the kickoff from near his own line and combined with Crotty, who broke on the outside, before taking Ben Smith's final pass to score.
Smith scored himself four minutes into the second half, again from a break and infield pass from Lienert-Brown.