AAP Rugby

Patchy All Blacks cling on to beat Pumas

By AAP Newswire

Steve Hansen has emerged satisfied despite the rusty and nail-biting nature of the All Blacks' 20-16 Rugby Championship win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

An error-riddled second half display from world champions on Sunday (AEST) allowed the Pumas a sniff at history but they couldn't force a first win in 29 attempts against New Zealand.

The under-strength All Blacks fully deserved their 20-9 halftime lead but their execution deteriorated in the second spell.

They were held scoreless and needed to dig deep, especially in the dying minutes when Argentina launched two attacking lineout drives to the backdrop of deafening crowd support at Jose Amalfitani Stadium.

It was an uncomfortable opening to the World Cup year for an All Blacks team missing a number of first-choice players from the Super Rugby champion Crusaders, who were resting in New Zealand.

Hansen named five uncapped players and fielded four of them, including starting winger Sevu Reece.

Coach Hansen wasn't afraid to inject debutants Braydon Ennor, Luke Jacobson and Atu Moli off the bench when the outcome was on the line and was delighted with the resilience shown.

"We found a lot of things and most of them were pretty positive and that was pleasing," Hansen said.

"We knew we'd be rusty and we were but the young guys got an opportunity to play in a place like this, which is difficult to play at any time, and most of them put their hands up."

The Pumas, who were comprised almost entirely of Jaguares Super Rugby players, hadn't come that close to beating the All Blacks since 2001.

Captain Pablo Matera regarded it as an opportunity lost.

"We were four points short so we will continue working hard," he said.

"It's not enough but we are still growing as a team."

Dominant in the second spell, Argentina were let down by numerous errors in attack, committing 18 turnovers for the match to New Zealand's 25.

One was a 77th-minute botched intercept attempt from Matera which, if he held on, would have resulted in a try.

Argentina led 6-0 through penalty goals before All Blacks inside centre Ngani Laumape powered over after a quick tap.

Pumas five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez and counterpart Beauden Barrett exchanged penalties before a decisive try to Brodie Retallick on the stroke of halftime.

The New Zealand lock plucked an intercept pass thrown by Sanchez on the halfway line and cantered 50m in a cruel blow to the hosts.

Argentina were a different beast after the break, growing in belief when Emiliano Boffelli plucked Sanchez's bomb out of fullback opposite Ben Smith's arms to score their lone try and set up a tense final half hour.