All Blacks show their class
New Zealand produced a more polished display to sweep Argentina aside last night and book a mouth-watering final date with the Classic Lions tomorrow.
The All Blacks’ excellent all-round performance — based on a first-half defensive masterclass — was a different level to their error-strewn win over France on Monday.
This time, despite a positive Argentina display at North Field, National Sports Centre, they were much slicker with ball in hand, racking up five tries.
Aaron Persico, the flanker, provided steel and impetus, Charles Hore, the centre, was clinical in touching down twice and Stefan Terblance — New Zealand were allowed to loan a player from the losing team in the other semi-final — proved he could play in a black shirt as well as a Springboks one.
The opening 30 minutes was all about the New Zeleand defence as they repelled sustained pressure from Argentina, keeping them out of their own 22 for the majority of the half.
When they did get a chance to break, they did so incisively, striking early through a converted Willie Walker try after good hands from Brendan Laney. With the Pumas probing for gaps, they succumbed to the counter-attack when the numberless Terblanche sprinted almost the length of the pitch down the left wing to score try No 2. Laney converted and the lead was doubled. Hore, 38, the former Highlanders player, believes the opening 20 minutes was crucial to the victory.
“The defence has been the key in the last couple of games,” he said.
“We didn’t have a lot of ball for ten minutes or so and kept them out. It’s pretty disheartening when you can keep a team out and then after 19 minutes or so let Terblanche go 90 metres down the other end and score. He was a nice addition!”
The second period was more open and Hore made it 19-0 after a blistering run from Jason Kupa, Walker missing the conversion.
But just when it looked like it would turn into a cakewalk for New Zealand, Federico Todeschini showed his speed of thought in the 51st minute to find a rare gap in the New Zealand defence and convert his own try to bring the deficit down to 12 points.
Eight minutes later, though, and a sweeping move involving Terblanche and Scott Ireland was finished off by sevens specialist Zar Lawrence. James Arlidge added the extra points to take the score to 26-12.
Fradua claimed Argentina’s second try to keep things interesting but the game was put beyond any doubt when Hore bagged his second try of the night, intercepting a tired Argentina pass.
“Both teams were keen to play some footy,” Hore said. “The weather was better than the other night so it was easier to shift the ball. It was a pretty fast game, to be fair.”
He added: “My tries were just on the back of good team play really. The first one was good hands from inside me and the last one they were always looking to chuck a big ball somewhere and I was just lucky enough to be there to catch it.”
The stage is now set for a rousing final against a clearly motivated Classic Lions.
“I know a few of those boys so it will be a good battle,” Hore said. “It will be a good game because they like to play some footy as well and not get too niggly so I’m looking forward to another free-flowing game. You’ve got to fancy your chances but you don’t want to talk yourself up too much!”