Beleaguered head coach Ian Foster finally found some relief and even hope in his home town of Hamilton where the All Blacks snapped a historic losing streak by beating Argentina 53-3 in a Rugby Championship test on Saturday.
The seven tries to nil win in wet conditions reversed the result of last weekend’s test which the Pumas won 25-18, ended an unprecedented run of three home defeats and brightened the All Blacks recent record of only three wins from their last nine tests.
Foster probably would have been clinging by a thread to the head coaching role if the All Blacks had lost again at the Waikato Stadium where Foster played many of his 148 games for Waikato province. He also played for and coached the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Super Rugby.
Saturday’s match was a homecoming for Foster and he found safe harbor in Hamilton, calm in the storm which has engulfed New Zealand rugby as the All Blacks have stumbled through the worst losing streak in their history.
Before the match, Foster told reporters that coaching the All Blacks is “a tough job to get away from, particularly in a test week. I haven’t wanted to get away but it’s good to be home.”
“We sort of trained like that the last two of weeks and we didn’t put it on the park last week,” Foster said. “This week we did. There’s a lot of reasons why it went well. To a man I was proud of them.”
The win lifts some of the clouds hanging over Foster and captain Sam Cane as the All Blacks now face two Bledisloe Cup tests against Australia.
“That was a massive win under a bit of pressure,” Cane said. “We weren’t happy with what we dished up last week although we felt we were in that game. This week we were in the game right from the start and we were able to turn that into points.”
New Zealand repaired several of the areas in which Argentina gained the upper hand at Christchurch a week ago. They were outplayed at the breakdown in the first match between the teams which allowed Argentina to set the pace and shut down the All Blacks’ attack.
Though Saturday’s match was played in steady rain, the All Blacks were able to set a higher pace through their improved breakdown work. They also kicked to better effect. In Christchurch their kicking often was misdirected but on Saturday they were accompanied more accurate kicking with a good kick chase, especially from players such as Will Jordan and Jordie Barrett.
Argentina made far too many handling errors to be able to maintain possession in the match and they also gave the All Blacks several penalties which allowed them to create field position.
That was evident from the opening minute of the match. After only 19 seconds a Pumas knock-on gave the All Blacks an advantage near the goal line and during the advantage the All Blacks won a penalty which Richie Mo’unga kicked for a 3-0 lead.
In the 10th minute, Jordan won a contest for the ball in the air, knocking it back toward center Rieko Ioane. The All Blacks carried the ball close to the Argentina goal line and scrumhalf Aaron Smith passed to prop Ethan de Groot who hit the line at pace and scored.
Then, in the 19th minute Mo’unga put a grubber kick in behind the defense before being flattened in a tackle. The All Blacks regained the ball through Jordan and Ioane cut through the defense, linking with winger Caleb Clarke who scored. The All Blacks led 17-0 and had their best start for some time.
After a penalty to Emiliano Boffelli for Argentina, the powerful hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho appeared to score for New Zealand. The try was disallowed because of a knock-on but Argentina lost lock Tomas Lavanini to the sin-bin. The All Blacks immediately capitalized on his absence when, from a scrum at which the Pumas added a back to the scrum Ioane cut through an undermanned backline to score.
The All Blacks led 24-3 at halftime and made it 27-3 six minutes after the re-start with a penalty to Mo’unga — his fifth successful kick.
Argentina then enjoyed its best period, spurred by some impact from the bench. Juan Martin Gonzalez was held up over the New Zealand line and the All Blacks conceded a flurry of penalties which resulted in a yellow card for prop Fletcher Newell.
The game swung back to the All Blacks who scored a superb try which began with Jordan and Ioane, continued with scrumhalf Finlay Christie and then Cane who passed to Jordie Barrett.
Backrower Ardie Savea, who was a driving force behind the All Blacks’ performance, was rewarded with a try in the 67th minute.
Veteran lock Brodie Retallick, who returned on the bench after suffering a fractured cheekbone against Ireland in July, joined in to score the next try and Beauden Barrett added the last three minutes after the fulltime siren.