, (Reuters) - The All Blacks upped the gears on their World Cup preparations, taking a step forward in their execution while they continued to develop a high-pace game plan with a 39-18 win over Argentina in Christchurch on Friday.
The victory in the Rugby Championship opener was a massive leap from a scrappy 25-16 win over Samoa last week in Apia though it indicated Steve Hansen’s side still have a lot of work to do if they are to defend the World Cup in two months.
Captain Richie McCaw, Ma‘a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Kieran Read and debutant Codie Taylor all scored tries while flyhalf Dan Carter, who appeared more confident at challenging the defensive line, slotted 14 points from the boot.
“We went up four or five gears and we needed to, to be honest,” Hansen said in a televised interview.
”For most of the game we were pretty good, but there was a period there for about 10 or 15 minutes when we went to sleep and let them back into it.
“Overall a pass mark.”
The All Blacks imposed their pace on the game from the beginning and ran the Pumas defence ragged, with Piutau’s try early in the second half a clear demonstration of their attacking intent and ability to execute it.
The left winger scored after backs and forwards combined to create a wave of runners all offloading in the tackle and changing angles as the Pumas were stretched thin.
Such was the pace of the game during that period, that Pumas captain Agustin Creevy was too out of breath to complain to referee Craig Joubert about what he thought had been a forward pass during another All Blacks’ attack.
“For the first game of the tournament we played well in some moments,” Creevy said through an interpreter after the game.
”But to beat the All Blacks you need to do everything well.
“We played some parts of the game in good shape but we need to improve.”
Speed was not the only issue the Pumas faced, with their vaunted scrum dominated throughout to the point where the All Blacks shunted them off the ball to secure a tighthead.
At the time, rookie prop Nepo Laulala, who was not in the original squad and was brought in as injury cover for Charlie Faumuina, and Taylor were both in the front row.
“Really pleased with it,” Hansen said in singling out scrum coach Mike Cron and veteran hooker Keven Mealamu for special praise for their work during training.
“We lost nothing with those two young guys out there.”
The All Blacks’ aggressive defence also put pressure on the Pumas in their own half, which resulted in Read’s try when he seized on the panic and scooped up a loose pass to cross.
Hansen, and McCaw, however, were not impressed with allowing Creevy to score twice from rolling mauls following attacking lineouts and the team had been given a tongue lashing by the captain after the second, though he was ultimately pleased.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said McCaw.
“But as always you have to look at ways of improving and we’ll do that.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly