NEWCASTLE, Australia (AP) — New Zealand ensured there was no repeat of its shock loss to Argentina a fortnight ago as it convincingly beat the Pumas 38-0 at Newcastle on Saturday and took a firm grip of the Tri-Nations with one match remaining.
New Zealand scored five tries to secure a bonus point in what was a far more assured performance after a 25-15 reverse two weeks earlier had put its hopes of a successful Tri-Nations campaign in serious doubt.
Tries for Dane Coles, Ardie Savea, Patrick Tuipulotu, a double for Will Jordan and 11 points from kicker Richie Mo’unga made sure the All Blacks avoided losing three consecutive tests for the first time this century.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for the way Argentina play and particularly defend,” All Blacks coach Ian Foster said. “What I was proud of the most today was that we really hammered away at them. We played a lot of rugby against them, we had a lot of variety with our kicking game.
“Today we played at a tempo that kept them moving and kept them guessing a bit and the decision-making was a lot more clinical.”
New Zealand paid tribute to Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona when captain Sam Cane laid an All Black jersey — number 10 — on the field before the start of the test. Maradona died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60.
As the All Blacks lined up to perform the haka, Cane stepped out, walked toward midfield and laid down the jersey — with Maradona’s name — as Argentine players stood arm-in-arm and watched. Several of the Pumas players nodded in acknowledgment of the gesture.
All the early running was with the All Blacks as it enjoyed nearly all the possession and territory, but the first points came through an unlikely source with hooker Coles diving over in the corner from a fired cutout pass by Mo’unga in the 12th minute. Mo’unga added the conversion before slotting another penalty moments later to give the All Blacks a 10-0 lead.
Caleb Clarke almost extended the lead in the 24th minute after combining with Mo’unga but the winger was adjudged to have put his foot in touch before grounding the ball in the corner.
Argentina worked its way into the match as the half progressed without ever really threatening to score points, but left some marks on their All Blacks counterparts with some bruising tackles.
Mo’unga had a penalty attempt to extend the lead further but his shot hit the post to leave the score at 10-0 at the break.
It took another 12 minutes into the second half for the All Blacks to break through again when Savea crashed over from close range following a lineout. Mo’unga again added the conversion for a 17-0 lead.
Jordan, a substitute winger, then profited from two midfield mistakes in two minutes by a tiring Argentina to race away and score his first All Black tries and secure a bonus point for New Zealand.
In the 68th minute, Jordan scooped a loose ball and sprinted away to score under the posts.
Two minutes later, the winger intercepted a Pumas pass and showed lightning pace to out-sprint the Argentine defenders and score in the corner for a 31-0 lead.
Tyrel Lomax received a late yellow card for contact with Lucio Sordoni as he tried to clean out a breakdown prior to Rieko Ioane crashing over.
Substitute forward Tuipulotu scored in the fifth minute after the siren to add some flourish for a dominant All Blacks display.
“We perhaps could have taken a few more opportunities in that first half but we didn’t lose our way,” Foster said. “We made them make a lot of tackles and broke them down and reaped the rewards, particularly when our bench came on which I thought brought a lot of energy and picked up a few plums, particularly from our defensive pressure.”
The All Blacks moved to 11 points on the Tri-Nations standings, five points ahead of Australia and Argentina, which play the final match of the tournament next week at Sydney with both teams needing a bonus point victory to have any chance of topping the All Blacks in the standings.
“We’ve done a lot of effort to come over here and a lot of sacrifices not to finish the way that we deserve to finish,” Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said. “We’ll go out there and try to have a great game.”
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports