The Rugby Championship played out its second round, and further history was made as Argentina played their first tournament match on home soil, while they recorded their best ever result against the Springboks with a 16-16 draw – and best outcome so far in their very brief introduction to the Southern Hemisphere’s elite international competition.
In Eden Park the All Blacks made it 2-0 against the Wallabies with an impressive 22-0 triumph over last season’s Tri-Nations champions, but Australian thoughts of winning the inaugural crown for The Rugby Championship have slimmed as they are on the bottom of the 2012 table with no competition points.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said the atmosphere at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas was magnificent.
“A huge crowd packed into the famous stadium to watch the Pumas first home match of The Rugby Championship, and they weren’t disappointed as they almost recorded their first victory over the Springboks,” Peters said.
“The draw further proves that the Argentines are welcome additions to the tournament, with the atmosphere and anthems different to what we traditionally encounter in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.”
Peters also congratulated the World Champions.
“The All Blacks have made a strong start to The Rugby Championship, and their retention of the Bledisloe Cup for the tenth straight year is a wonderful achievement for Steve (Hansen), Richie (McCaw) and the troops,” Peters said.
“There is however a long way to go in the tournament, and even the pace setters will be wary of their round five clash with Argentina in La Plata.”
The All Blacks returned to Eden Park with imposing records in hand, unbeaten in their greatest fortress since 1994, without a loss to the Wallabies there since 1986, while defending a 28-match win streak at the ground – and a 12 straight matches without defeat.
Despite the odds being stacked against them, the Wallabies bunkered down in Auckland, while naming Tokoroa born Quade Cooper, with the team hoping that the mercurial playmaker could be the magic bullet against the World Champions.
A promising start and some real aggression on defence showed that the Wallabies had turned up to play, but the All Blacks poise under pressure came to the fore, and they took a narrow 9-0 lead into the halftime break.
In the second half though the hosts turned up the blow torch, and as the match wore on the Wallabies looked increasingly ragged, as the All Blacks closed out the game thanks to a typical sparkling Israel Dagg try – holding the Wallabies scoreless for the first time in 40 years, and first time in 50 years against New Zealand.
In Mendoza, the crowd was in raptures at halftime as the Pumas took control of the match to gain a 13-3 lead at the break, courtesy of a patient try taken by Montpellier based centre Santiago Fernandez.
While the Springboks scored a 13-3 second half, the educated boot of Pumas fullback and Stade Francais based Martin Rodriguez Gurruchage kept the hosts in the match, although if one of his two missed penalties had gone over it could have been a famous victory.
The Rugby Championship now breaks for a travel bye, and will resume on September 8, with the Wallabies hosting the Springboks at Patersons Stadium, Perth – while the All Blacks will entertain Argentina at Westpac Trust Stadium in Wellington.