Lavanini, fierce defender, and Boffelli, infallible with his feet, were two of the keys to Pua’s victory. Photo: AFP
Without standing out, but with an intelligent approach, with far fewer mistakes and far more discipline than All black, The Cougars They achieved a historic victory, the first on Maori soil, for the third round of the Rugby Championship. It was a 25-18 which confirms a great moment for the Argentine national team led by the Australian Michele Sheika. Not only does he lead the tournament that brings together the powers of the southern hemisphere. He also builds step by step, contrast by contrast, his way to the World Cup in France next year. All with unprecedented solvency.
Argentina played with conviction and with rigorous knowledge of their limits. He did not do what was not in his power nor did he step out of the script that he had meticulously prepared for the past two weeks. He found an opponent who played under pressure: New Zealand faced their ghosts and the belief of the Los Pumas. And he lost with both of them.
The Pumas built their victory on odds. The precision of an infallible Emiliano Boffelli in every shot at goal and his overwhelming effectiveness have allowed the All Blacks not to pick themselves up in the moments in which they dominated the game. The crucial moment was the goal of Juan Martín González of Mendoza, which allowed to channel the duel. Thus, by dint of temperance and defensive discipline, Argentina achieved a well-deserved victory at Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium over and above the recurring problems in fixed formations.
The Argentine team did not start the match by giving clues as to how the night would end in Christchurch. Instead, the New Zealander showed his cyclothymic present right from the start. After just three minutes he wasted a penalty, the product of the first Argentine infringement. It was a bad sign. But he didn’t go from there. Opening half Richie Mo’unga missed the shot from the crossbar and also the opportunity to give the pulse of the game.
Concentrated, the Los Pumas have not lost their heads after that offside that could have scored them. In fact, when the mistake was made by the All Blacks, they benefited from it. The first three points came thanks to Boffelli’s punch, who didn’t fail as he never would have failed in the night. However, the joy quickly faded. Once again the Argentine team suffered from a recurring error: the rival’s first try came after a penalty and a poor response on the line -Mo’unga preferred him to try sticks- and the maul advanced unchallenged up to when Taike ‘has now managed to support. They didn’t add seven points because the opening player continued with his sights out of calibration.
If the All Blacks managed to catch on, as expected, the Los Pumas would be on their feet. It was a physical game, but also a psychological one. The balance of the visit tarnished the venue which failed to imbue its style and was fraying with a good number of infractions which Argentina capitalized on without problems to check the score. With little advantage, the one and the other selection went to the fore.
Shortly after halftime, Argentina once again failed to get a line and the All Blacks did not forgive. Caleb Clark scored the second try for the hosts and Mo’unga this time improved his aim and with those seven points they ran away 15-6. That film was seen many times and the good intentions of Los Pumas seemed like they would once again remain as a simple attempt.
Hand. Before the blinds lowered in the first half, captain Julián Montoya caught a ball after a tackle on Will Jordan and Los Pumas suffered another penalty. From a distance – about fifty meters – Boffelli combined power and precision to get three more points and reduce the gap with another penalty that Rosario’s man hit again. Without prominence, adding three by three, Los Pumas went into the locker room below, only 15-12 and fighting evenly.
The second half was as hard as the first and the small difference in the scoreboard marks a glimmer of hope for Cheika’s men. Driven by unusual All Blacks mistakes: Jordie Barrett tried to hit the post from distance on a penalty spot, but without power or height. Whatever.
With no ball or control, the Los Pumas were clean on defense. A penalty from Matera for tackling without the ball allowed Mo’unga to stretch the difference to six points. And here came the highlight of the match, because after a long outing of Carreras, Boffelli fought high ball and dismantled the local defense. Juan Martín González finds the ball and faces his rival’s goal with determination. Just like against the Wallabies, the man from Mendoza made his goal and with the points from the conversion the Pumas took the lead 19-18. The surprise left the Christchurch stadium speechless.
That was the points threshold for New Zealand. From there, Los Pumas continued to increase on penalties until reaching the final 25-18. They relied on a defensive work that, when it presented cracks, quickly found solutions. Tomás Lavanini, Montoya and Marcos Kremer, who made 50 appearances, shone in that category. Impracticable. Tireless. The yellow card for the third row Shannon Frizzell left the All Blacks with 14 players until the end of the match, which despite the numerical disadvantage continued to give work. You know: they never give up.
The Pumas have made sense of the training sessions of the last two weeks in Oceania, have reached the right concentration and have taken advantage of the circumstances. Their successes were more than their weaknesses – mainly the fixed formations – and they played with the conviction that they could do it. Thus they accumulated a new historical triumph. The first in the land of the ferocious Maori. It doesn’t matter too much that the All Blacks are going through an unprecedented crisis. The victory serves to lead the rugby championship after three dates – Argentina has 9 points as well as Australia, which shortly before also surprised by beating South Africa. Also to show that there is a way to go to get as strong as possible at the World Cup in France.