World Cup - New Zealand down stubborn Argentina
The All Blacks took until the 67th minute to eventually cross the try-line but scrum-half Piri Weepu kept the scoreboard ticking over for the hosts with seven penalties.
Argentina visibly tired late in the second half as Brad Thorn ran in a second try, converted replacement fly-half Aaron Cruden, to make the result look far more one-sided than it actually was.
Santiago Fernandez looked to stamp Argentina’s mark on the match early on as he attempted a drop goal in just the 10th minute. The kick dipped under the bar at the last minute but it was a statement of intent from Argentina, who produced their best performance of the tournament.
But penalties cost the Pumas and Weepu gave the All Blacks the lead just three minutes later when Argentina were caught offside.
Weepu doubled New Zealand’s lead 12 minutes later through a second penalty but Argentina bounced back with the first try of the day. Leonardo Senatore broke through the All Blacks defence before skipper Felipe Contepomi took the ball to within five metres of the line. Argentina swarmed up in support and Julio Farias Cabello had an easy pick-up-and-go to cross over the line.
Contepomi added the conversion to put New Zealand behind on the scoreboard for just the second time in the tournament before Weepu snuck them back into the lead with his third penalty of the match.
New Zealand extended their lead to five points just before the interval with yet another Weepu penalty but it was a far from comfortable All Blacks side who disappeared down the tunnel at half-time.
The loss of centurion Mils Muliaina during the break initially looked a big blow to New Zealand as Marcelo Bosch got the second half off to a great start for Argentina, with a long-range penalty from the half-way line.
But the All Blacks quickly reasserted their lead with two more penalties from Weepu. The second came after Nicolas Vergallo had been sent to the sin bin for hands in the ruck at the same time as Richie McCaw was denied a try as he was held up by an Argentine leg on the line.
But New Zealand’s long-sought first try finally materialised 13 minutes from time, albeit with a piece of luck. Martin Rodriguez came within a whisker of intercepting a no-look pass from Jerome Kaino to Kieran Read, only for the All Blacks number eight to collect the ball and dive over the line.
Weepu missed the conversion but landed a seventh penalty five minutes later before being brought off in favour of Jimmy Cowan.
New Zealand further stretched their lead in the final minute when Cowan and the irrepressible Cory Jane combined on the right wing before finding Thorn, who dove over the line unchallenged.
Third-choice fly-half Aaron Cruden, on the pitch for 57 minutes after Colin Slade picked up a groin injury early in the match, added the conversion to finish the match on a high note for the All Blacks,
13’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 3-0
25’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 6-0
31’ Farias Cabello try: 6-5 Argentina
32’ Contepomi conversion: 6-7 Argentina
35’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 9-7
39’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 12-7
46’ Bosch penalty: 12-10 Argentina
50’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 15-10
59’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 18-10
67’ Read try: New Zealand 23-10
73’ Weepu penalty: New Zealand 26-10
79’ Thorn try: New Zealand 31-10
79’ Cruden conversion: New Zealand 33-10