CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Winger Emiliano Boffelli kicked six penalties and the conversion of a try to Juan Martin Gonzalez to propel Argentina to a momentous 25-18 win over New Zealand in a Rugby Championship test on Saturday.
Boffelli’s flawless kicking performance ensured the Pumas achieved only their second win over the All Blacks in 34 tests and their first on New Zealand soil.
He kicked four penalties in the first half to answer two tries by the All Blacks who only led 15-12 at halftime after conceding eight penalties in a poorly disciplined performance.
Argentina seized control of the match with a spirited start to the second half during which flanker Gonzalez scored their only try. Boffelli converted and kept the penalties coming to consign New Zealand to its second loss in three matches in the Championship and to its sixth loss in its last eight tests.
The All Blacks now have lost three home tests in a row for the first time in their 119-year history.
The latest defeat calls into question the confidence expressed by New Zealand Rugby in head coach Ian Foster who was reappointed through the 2023 World Cup after the All Blacks’ 35-23 win over South Africa in Johannesburg two weeks ago.
Foster didn’t comment immediately after the match on any possible repercussions of the loss for him or his coaching team.
“I thought Argentina kept true to the way they wanted to play and really frustrated us,” Foster said in a television interview. “We couldn’t get what we wanted at the breakdown.
“We had large periods of dominance at our set piece but even that didn’t go well at the end. They got away with some stuff at the breakdown and we weren’t able to deal with it.”
The All Blacks had an edge at set pieces, particularly at scrums, and produced the only moment of backline brilliance in the match to score a first half try to winger Caleb Clarke.
But Argentina was relentless in its defense in the second half and it harried the All Blacks into mistakes and lapses of discipline from which Boffelli took full advantage. Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli at times confounded the All Blacks with his decisions but mostly he was correct and by the book.
This was not an All Blacks playing with confidence or on top of its game. It managed only a solitary penalty after halftime as its game became a catalogue of errors.
New Zealand had one last chance when it attacked under penalty advantage in the 78th minute. But it couldn’t crack the Argentina defense and instead went back to the penalty and kicked into the corner. The All Blacks had to win the lineout but hooker Codie Taylor’s throw wasn’t straight. The Pumas won the scrum, kicked to touch and the match was over.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Argentina captain Julian Montoya said. “It’s not quite the same as the magic moment (when Argentina beat the All Blacks for the first time). But we have worked very, very hard and I’m very, very proud of the team.”
The match began as it carried on with a penalty to Boffelli in the seventh minute. New Zealand went ahead in the first of four lead changes with an 11th minute try to hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho from a lineout drive.
Boffelli’s second penalty put the Pumas ahead again in the 17th minute but Richie Mo’unga reclaimed the lead for New Zealand with his first penalty in the 28th minute after a multi-phase attack.
Clarke scored a superb try in the 32nd minute as the All Blacks took advantage of Argentina’s lineout which in the first half suffered from being over-elaborate.
Rieko Ioane cut between two defenders in midfield and shunted a short pass as Jordie Barrett ran into the gap. Barrett steadied, then passed wide to Clarke who scored in the left-hand corner. The All Blacks led 15-6 but two more penalties to Boffelli cut the lead to three points at halftime.
The Pumas came out in the second half with obvious intent. They attacked the kickoff after a Mo’unga penalty and the ball fell to Gonzalez who turned pass scrumhalf Aaron Smith and dashed 20 meters to score. Boffelli added penalties in the 56th and 66th minutes, stretching Argentina’s lead to seven points and the All Blacks lacked the cohesion to recover.
“It certainly felt in the first half that we were more dominant in areas than we managed to show on the scoreboard,” All Blacks captain Sam Cane said. “A lot of credit has to go to Argentina for the way they stuck in it and eventually turned the tables.”
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