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All Blacks shake off doubts with 41-12 win over Argentina in Rugby Championship

MENDOZA, ARGENTINA (AP) – New Zealand has demanded the attention of Rugby World Cup rivals with an eye-opening 41-12 win over Argentina in Mendoza yesterday in their first test of 2023.

Ten months after losing to Argentina in New Zealand for the first time, the All Blacks ruled out any possibility of another upset in the Rugby Championship with three tries in the first 11 minutes and five in the first half which gave them a 31-0 lead at halftime.

If they go on to success at the World Cup in France, the All Blacks will remember Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes as an important stepping stone.

“The first half we were outstanding,” captain Sam Cane said. “The Pumas came back in the second half and it was a bit of an arm wrestle but I’m really pleased and proud of that result.”

The Pumas shut down the All Blacks with smothering defence to win in Christchurch last year.

Yesterday, they so seldom had possession in the first half, they had no way of combating New Zealand’s waves of attack. “Two teams, different game,” Pumas captain Julian Montoya said. “First half, second half.

Argentina’s Los Pumas Rodrigo Bruni tackled by New Zealand’s All Blacks Aaron Smith. PHOTO: AP

“We have to be self-critical. We have to be better for next week (against Australia). But I don’t believe in excuses, I don’t believe in shortcuts. We have to be better, way better.”

The All Blacks quieted concerns about their strength up front with a dominant forward performance. They won penalties from three of the first four scrums and disrupted the Pumas’ lineout, often through lock Josh Lord in his first test since 2021. Ethan de Groot made a big impact on the All Blacks’ loosehead side.

New Zealand’s first try came after five minutes as a signal of things to come. Centre Rieko Ioane sold a dummy and made a break from inside his own half, combining with the new winger Emoni Narawa. Back-rower Shannon Frizell slipped a pass to lock Scott Barrett and veteran hooker Dane Coles took the last pass to score.

Back-rower Ardie Savea scored two minutes later after a strong run by Narawa down the right touch. The All Blacks won a penalty, took a lineout, moved the ball infield and, after Scott Barrett went close, Savea picked up the ball and dotted it down.

Jordie Barrett, who with brothers Scott and Beauden, were all part of the starting 15, scored in the 11th minute after Beauden broke down the left touch, turning the ball infield to his brother.

McKenzie converted one of the three tries and the All Blacks led 17-0. After a hiatus, the All Blacks took up try-scoring again. Rieko Ioane scored a deserved try in the 29th running off a short pass from McKenzie, and scrumhalf Aaron Smith ran off a lineout drive to score in the last minute of the half. Pumas back-rower Rodrigo Bruni was sin-binned in the same movement and Argentina started the second half with 14 men.

The All Blacks’ defence was tested more regularly in the second half and they responded with some powerful tackles which halted movements in full flow. They were also quick and decisive at the breakdown.