Wind, rain make for close match

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By STEVEN SA­MUELS

The All Blacks ground out a scrappy vic­tory against Ar­gentina in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions at West­pac Sta­dium in Welling­ton on Satur­day night.

There was a lot of in­ter­est in the lead-up to the test, how­ever, most of it cen­tred on Gra­ham Henry and what kind of ad­vi­sory role he was play­ing and whether he would be in the Pu­mas coach’s box.

Throughout the week the me­dia was flooded with com­ments and opin­ions about whether or not Gra­ham Henry should be help­ing Ar­gentina.

My view, for what it is worth, he has given sterling ser­vice to New Zealand rugby from first XV level right through to the most de­mand­ing coach­ing ap­point­ment in world rugby, re­tir­ing only af­ter de­liv­er­ing the World Cup and count­less other im­por­tant tro­phies and help­ing mould many of to­day’s great play­ers.

If he has the skills and the knowl­edge to help other coun­tries, he has the right to do as he pleases, just as play­ers and other coaches do.

I think it is great that he is help­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Ar­gen­tinian rugby and help­ing them achieve and main­tain equal sta­tus with the other top nations of the world.

Ar­gentina named their strong­est side with many of the same starters who played against South Africa.

The one key ad­di­tion was first five Juan Martin Her­nan­dez re­turn­ing from in­jury.

On the other hand, the All Blacks made quite a few changes to the team that played Aus­tralia.

Wy­att Crock­ett was ousted in favour of Tony Wood­cock, back from in­jury. Sam White­lock was rel­e­gated to the bench with Brodie Re­tal­lick pre­ferred to part­ner Luke Ro­mano in the sec­ond row.

The only other change in the for­wards was the in­clu­sion of Vic­tor Vito as blind­side flanker in­stead of Liam Mes­sam.

Dan Carter pulled out af­ter ini­tially be­ing se­lected giv­ing his “twin brother” Aaron Cru­den the first five role.

Last but not least, Con­rad Smith at cen­tre, and Ju­lian Savea on left wing in place of Hosea Gear com­pleted the changes.

The wet slip­pery con­di­tions made it dif­fi­cult to achieve the high speed, open run­ning game favoured by the All Blacks, mean­ing it would be a for­ward ori­en­tated bat­tle and there­fore play­ing into the Pu­mas’ hands.

The first quar­ter was a ding­dong bat­tle with both teams try­ing to gain the as­cen­dancy.

Even­tu­ally Aaron Cru­den man­aged to put the All Blacks in front with a penalty. Af­ter some hard graft­ing up the field, the Pu­mas’ for­wards started their as­sault on the line with vet­eran prop Ro­drigo Ron­cero crash­ing across for the first try of the match.

The crowd was stunned into si­lence with the Ar­gies scor­ing the first try.

It was a well-con­structed try re­ward­ing their for­wards for some great work.

Both teams found the gen­eral kick­ing and goal kick­ing very dif­fi­cult in the blus­tery and swirling con­di­tions, as ev­i­denced by some of the goal kicks be­ing pushed well off tar­get.

And many times high kicks were blown back to­wards the kicker.

Both teams bum­bled their way through the rest of the half mak­ing many han­dling er­rors and mis­takes leav­ing the score at 6-5 to New Zealand at half­time.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the re­sump­tion, the power went out, plung­ing the sta­dium into dark­ness.

Both teams went back to the chang­ing rooms for an ex­tra 15-20 min­utes while the lights were pow­ered up again.

Per­haps it was a sign to come for the Pu­mas with the sta­dium go­ing all black.

In the first 25 min­utes the only scor­ing ac­tion was a penalty to New Zealand.

Ar­gentina had a cou­ple of missed shots at goal, which is be­com­ing a bit of a bug­bear for them, with mem­o­ries of missed goals cost­ing them in the first test against South Africa.

Slick pass­ing through the backs set up the try for Savea to score off a Nonu pass to make the score 14-5 af­ter Cru­den missed the kick.

A few min­utes later, Cory Jane man­aged to slide over in the right hand cor­ner to make the score 21-5. I per­son­ally found the game frus­trat­ing to watch as New Zealand made count­less han­dling er­rors and threw too many 50/50 passes.

Once again, there were far too many penal­ties.

Whether they were wrong or right, it still made the game a stop-start af­fair with no flow or con­ti­nu­ity.

One thing that re­ally gets on my nerves is all the ref­er­ees in the tests so far have been North­ern Hemi­sphere refs.

Over there, they ref a much dif­fer­ent kind of game to the sort we play in the South­ern Hemi­sphere.

I think the north­ern refs are not up to speed with the style of play we aim to play.

You would think the IRB would se­lect south­ern hemi­sphere refs to ref­eree South­ern Hemi­sphere games.

There is an old say­ing – a win is a win is a win!

Even though we didn’t play very well, we still man­aged to close out the game.

I take my hat off to Ar­gentina who played ad­mirably and pushed us hard all the way.

The Wal­la­bies played the Spring­boks in Perth, im­me­di­ately af­ter the All Blacks test.

There was a lot of pres­sure on Aus­tralia and their coach Rob­bie Deans, who re­ally had to en­sure a vic­tory to feel se­cure in his job.

For­tu­nately for him his charges man­aged to close out a very good vic­tory 26-19 over South Africa.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Wal­la­bies have the cap­tain’s curse.

First James Hor­will was injured in Su­per Rugby, then David Po­cock was injured in the first test in Sydney, and on Satur­day Will Ge­nia broke a bone in his leg and will be out for the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion.

I’m sure the rest of the play­ers will be dread­ing hear­ing their name be­ing called as cap­tain.

A win's a win: All Blacks winger Ju­nior Savea slides in for a try against Ar­gentina in Welling­ton on Satur­day.

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