All Blacks march into Rugby World Cup final with ruthless Pumas culling
New Zealand await the winners of Saturday's South Africa versus England clash in next week’s Rugby World Cup 2023 final after thrashing Argentina 44-6 in Saint-Denis on Friday.
New Zealand 44 (20) Argentina 6 (6)
The All Blacks marched into their fifth Rugby World Cup final by swatting Argentina aside with a display of clinical finishing and ruthless defence, but also very little serious resistance in the first semi-final.
Wing Will Jordan scored a hattrick to move to eight tries in the tournament, as the men from New Zealand posted a record winning margin at this stage of the tournament.
Jordan could surpass the record of eight tries in a single tournament in next week’s final, which he now shares with Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea and Bryan Habana.
The Pumas were outgunned in just about every department and after last week’s two thrilling quarterfinals at Stade de France, this first semi-final was a massive anti-climax.
As a contest it was flatter than a platteland vowel.
The All Blacks ran in seven tries and calmly kept the Pumas at arms’ length in the first 25 minutes when the game was still alive.
The Pumas had no answer to unlocking the All Blacks’ defence and couldn’t cope with New Zealand’s slick attack while the South American’s set piece was never on par. They buckled in the scrums and couldn’t handle the All Blacks’ maul.
Either the Springboks or England await in the final, and after the obvious gulf in class on display here, and the quality of the quarterfinals at Stade de France last week, the organisers must be silently hoping for an all southern hemisphere final.
New Zealand were in such command they were able to bring on their entire bench before the hour mark. They also have the advantage of an eight-day turnaround for the final while England or the Boks will only have seven days.
Over by halftime
After taking an early lead and making the early running with multiple phase play, which never seriously looked like puncturing the All Blacks’ defence, the Pumas were stumped.
It was over as a contest on the stroke of halftime because the All Blacks did what they do so often, scored a try two minutes into injury time at the end of the half.
Until that point the Pumas were just about clinging on, but when Shannon Frizell cantered in unopposed in the left corner, it sucked what little atmosphere there was from the stadium.
Mark Tele’a, the reinstated left wing, broke through two feeble tackles and was hauled up metres short of the line. From there the recycled ball found its way left to the flank to settle the matter a half to go.
The Pumas started well and pounded away at the New Zealand line through multiple phases in the opening two minutes. They should’ve realised then that a repeated phase attack was unlikely to pierce the black wall of resistance.
Argentina eventually had to settle for an early penalty after failing to break the line, which Emiliano Boffelli duly slotted.
Another promising attack broke down minutes later when the Pumas were isolated on attack and New Zealand won the breakdown penalty and were able to clear their lines.
It was a theme that repeated itself regularly as referee Angus Gardner found fault with the Pumas at the breakdown.
New Zealand’s opening try, scored by Jordan, started from that penalty. They kicked for touch, won the lineout, mauled, earned another penalty, repeated the sequence and eventually manipulated acres of space for Jordan to glide away.
The All Blacks’ second try again stemmed from a Pumas attack, this time Tele’a winning a classy turnover inside his 22. The All Blacks transitioned from defence to attack in a flash with Rieko Ioane breaking the line, making ground with an entire cast in support.
A few phases later Jordie Barrett was over in the corner.
Argentina could feel aggrieved that their best attack was stopped on the All Black tryline when Scott Barrett clearly went off his feet to kill the ball.
It led to a penalty but it might have been a harsher sanction for such a blatant infringement on the line. As it was, Boffelli slotted it.
Barrett later earned a yellow card for slapping the ball out of Lautaro Bazan’s hands but it mattered little at the end. It might matter next week though.
After halftime the pain continued almost immediately when scrumhalf Aaron Smith sliced through the Pumas from an advancing scrum inside the 22. He stepped inside opposite number Gonzalo Bertranou and dummied left-wing Mateo Carreras to score.
Minutes later Frizell scored his second after an 18-phase build-up, and Jordan made it two when he flopped over the corner. Jordan’s third try was a gem as he cut the line from an inside pass, chipped and collected to complete his hat trick.
The game then descended into an unstructured farce that resembled little more than a messy training session.
That mattered little to the All Blacks, who are one step away from a fourth world title. DM
New Zealand – Tries: Will Jordan (3), Jordie Barrett, Shannon Frizell (2), Aaron Smith. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3). Penalty: Mo’unga
Argentina – Penalties: Boffelli (2).