All Blacks beat Argentina, return to top of rugby rankings

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — New Zealand overtook South Africa atop the world rugby rankings and warmed up for the 100th test between the two nations with a 36-13 win over Argentina on Saturday.

The All Blacks needed to beat the Pumas by 15 points to regain the top ranking after Australia completed back-to-back wins over the World Cup champion Springboks with a 30-17 victory in the first match of the doubleheader at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

A New Zealand lineup, containing 11 changes to the starting XV from last week’s 39-0 win over the Pumas, dominated early but had to wrestle hard in the second half to improve to 4-0 in the Rugby Championship and extend its winning streak to nine tests.

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu, scrumhalf T.J. Perenara and Tupou Vaa’i — long after the halftime siren — scored tries and the New Zealanders led 24-3 at the break, despite having three tries disallowed.

It was 29-6 when hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho touched down in the right corner five minutes after the break, but then Argentina rallied hard.

After the big loss on the Gold Coast last start, the Pumas played with more discipline and worked their way back to 29-13 in the 51st minute.

Winger Emiliano Boffelli caught a perfectly placed cross-field kick and dived into the left corner for Argentina’s first try in two matches, then converted from the sideline.

The New Zealanders missed another scoring opportunity when replacement scrumhalf Finlay Christie charged down Santiago Carreras’ attempted clearance kick but fumbled the loose ball at close range.

Argentina spent an extended period of time in the attacking quarter, applying all the pressure but unable to convert it into points, until the All Blacks finished off with a second try to Vaa'i three minutes from the end.

Argentina is now 0-4 in the Rugby Championship ahead of next Saturday's tests against Australia, which is 2-2 in the tournament.

The big match next Saturday in the doubleheader in Townsville, in the north of Australia's Queensland state, is the All Blacks against the Springboks.

With so many frontline players rested from the match against the Pumas, the All Blacks are expecting a big lift.

"We're going to enjoy tonight, stay in the moment, and then re-focus for next week," All Blacks captain Ardie Savea said.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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