Pumas may do even better at home

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 10/09/2012

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If anyone thinks Wellington's conditions were foul for the All Blacks' 21-5 win over Argentina on Saturday, just wait for the welcome they will get at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata in three weeks' time.

OPINION: One day Los Pumas will topple the All Blacks because they have the tonnage and the tackling fuerte to get it done.

The weather won't be a factor. Argentinian journalistas said they "never" get weather like Wellington's in Argentina.

But with the screaming Latins behind them at La Plata, they might go for 80 minutes if they can slow the game down with ostensible injuries.

At Wellington they went too far with the blackout, seemingly deploying a saboteur to turn off the floodlights and force a 17-minute halftime breather.

That would have suited their pest, 35-year-old unattached professional prop Rodrigo Roncero who was always lazy running or in the way of the All Blacks.

Fortunately the Pumas don't have X-factor attacking backs like Hugo Porta to complement their beefcakes up front, so no surprise they didn't score a try.

Mind you for 65 minutes it seemed the All Blacks would suffer the embarrassment of not scoring a try in a test for the first time since 2004, away to Australia. That is 101 tests back.

Fortunately, the Pumas eventually cracked out wide, the first thanks to Conrad Smith's hot hands and the second to Aaron Cruden's wide floating pass to Cory Jane at which the Buenos Aires boys hollered, "forward pass".

But these Pumas have no care for their bodily welfare, hurling themselves headfirst at anything in black.

They were a far cry from the mob who battled to subdue Georgia in that forgettable World Cup clash in Palmerston North last year, way more switched on this time.

The conditions on Saturday might not have been as extreme as in the 1961 test against France at Athletic Park but they were still foul.

While 31,615 paid and 29,500 turned up, spare a thought for the paying passengers who sailed on the Arahura inter-island ferry before kickoff.

When Cruden was kicking from one side, the ball went straight; but from the other it was drawing and hooking, so how he slotted that last conversion from the white line probably surprised him.

And he managed the impossible, striking both uprights with one shot.

The match was similar to their World Cup clash last year when it took until late for the All Blacks to make it safe, although in better conditions at Eden Park.

For entertainment value, the NPC games beat it hands down. The All Blacks are still fathoming how to play high-octane rugby, pushing passes and maybe still missing Kaino and Thorn.

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Daniel Carter was in the best place, in the grandstand. Cruden found himself thrust into his first full game in more than a month, but he got better as the game wore on. He spilled an early ball, but so did Richie McCaw.

Perhaps this battle of the heavyweights was more suited to Piri Weepu than Aaron Smith. But both he and Cruden saw precious little ball on the front foot, especially in the first half.

It did not pay to ask the Argentinian rugby captain and coach a question in Spanish afterwards.

At 10.30pm, it was obviously early for the South Americans because every question from their reporters was long, but the answers from Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Santiago Phelan were five-minute sermons.

When someone asked a question in English, the gist of it all was that they wanted to earn a respectful place in the competition .

We assume they had no beef with flanker Julio Farias Cabello being binned for a deliberate slap.

Most of the Argies were familiar faces from their time in Palmerston North at last year's World Cup, aside from coaching consultant Senor Graham Henry Esq, of course.

- Manawatu Standard

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