LONDON (Reuters) - The biggest crowd to ever watch a Rugby World Cup match were treated to a classic on Sunday as Argentina pushed New Zealand all the way before the holders’ class eventually earned them a 26-16 win in front of almost 90,000 fans at Wembley.
A day after Japan has stunned South Africa, another huge upset looked a possibility as Argentina, who had never beaten the All Blacks, led the team who have never lost a World Cup pool game, until the 56th minute only for the favorites’ mounting pressure to pay off with two tries.
Earlier Samoa ensured there would not be another shock in Brighton, the scene of Japan’s heroics, as they beat the United States 25-16, while Wales demolished Uruguay 54-9 in Cardiff but suffered yet more injuries in the process.
It initially looked to be plain sailing for New Zealand as three Dan Carter penalties had them 9-0 up but Argentine showed a real appetite for the battle and turned things round to lead 13-12 at halftime after a Guido Petti try. The All Blacks looked rattled and lost captain Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith to the sin-bin.
Another penalty stretched the lead but it was mostly one-way traffic in the second half and the Puma defense was finally breached by Aaron Smith and replacement forward Sam Cane.
”I guess that’s what you expect first up,“ said McCaw. ”I thought that second half was a lot more clinical.
“We’ll have to make a few improvements but that’s the nature of rugby.”
The 89,019 attendance eclipsed the previous best of 82,957 who watched England beat Australia in the 2003 final in Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
“It’s a magic place to play here at Wembley, it’s one of the great grounds to play at,” added McCaw, who was winning his 143rd cap.
Brighton was still buzzing a day after Japan’s sensational victory over South Africa and with Pool B now wide open, Samoa did what they needed to do to get past the U.S.
There were two tries apiece but the Americans paid a heavy price for indiscipline as Tusi Pisi slotted four penalties and Michael Stanley added another to ensure Samoa’s deserved victory to leave them level at the top with Japan on four points.
Wales wasted little time in Cardiff as they secured their bonus point before halftime with four tries -- including three for center Cory Allen.
Wales, fielding several second-string players, scored eight in all, with Samson Lee, Hallam Amos, Gareth Davies (two) and Justin Tipuric also crossing.
However, having suffered a series of injury setbacks in the build-up to the tournament, there was concern in the Welsh camp after Allen, fullback Liam Williams and prop Paul James all went off injured a week before their Twickenham clash with England.
Uruguay coach Pablo Lemoine and his United States counterpart Mike Tolkin both said their players had been lifted by Japan’s victory over the Springboks.
“It shows that teams are on the rise at our level,” said Tolkin.
“It’s great for the game overall, I think it’s fantastic for the fans, for the sport,” he added, echoing the reaction from around the world -- South Africa apart, where the headline “SA shamed by minnows Japan” was fairly representative of the country’s media verdict.
France’s worst fears were confirmed when a scan revealed that winger Yoann Huget will take no further part in the tournament after injuring knee ligaments in Saturday night’s win over Italy.
Huget, who missed the 2011 World Cup after a doping violation, will be replaced by Remy Grosso.
The first citing of the tournament was also announced on Sunday, with Fiji flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu in the dock on Monday for a tip tackle during his side’s defeat by England.
After a breathless eight games in the opening three days, there is a break in the action until Wednesday, when there are three more, as Scotland, no doubt somewhat nervously, take on Japan, Australia play Fiji and France face Romania.
Editing by Justin Palmer