Just a week after confirming Ian Foster as their head coach through to the World Cup, the All Blacks are back to square one after Michael Cheika’s Pumas shocked New Zealand at home.
Six penalties to super boot Emiliano Boffelli and a try to Juan Martin Gonzalez saw Argentina hold on in dramatic circumstances to seal an incredible 25-18 win. It is just the second time in their history they have beaten the All Blacks.
Los Pumas beat the All Blacks for the first time in their history in 2020 in Parramatta. The win came with Cheika as an assistant under Mario Ledesma.
But the former Wallabies coach, who left his post following the 2019 World Cup, directly coached against the All Blacks for the first time. He won his first Test as Wallabies coach against the All Blacks in 2015, too.
“We knew we had to bring intensity, we knew they had a bit of pressure on them so we have to try and build on that pressure and then see where the game lands and go from there,” he told Sky Sport.
At full-time Cheika jumped up and roared with ecstasy and was hugged by his new assistant coach David Kidwell.
Cheika, who has experienced the high and lows of rugby and the international spotlight, said the winning feeling was exactly what coaching and sport is about.
“I don’t want to sound corny but if that’s not what footy is about (I don’t know),” he said.
“You’re with your mates, enjoying the game, the ups and the downs, those times, especially for some of these Argentinian boys, that’s historic for them. I want them to enjoy being in the team and getting around playing against teams like this.”
Asked what was more special either beating the Wallabies as Argentinian coach or beating the All Blacks on New Zealand soil, Cheika said winning in Christchurch was a new experience.
“It’s a first for me, I’ve never won a Test match in New Zealand,” the former Wallabies coach said.
“I don’t look at it like that. I look at it from our point of view and growing the team and, in particular, towards the World Cup.
“What’s going to be big now is getting ready for next week because I imagine they’re going to come back with every piece of artillery they have, and we’ve got to be able to work out a way to handle that and give something back.”
The defeat immediately turns the focus back on Foster, who was confirmed through to the World Cup by New Zealand Rugby less than two weeks ago.
His backing by New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson came after the All Blacks beat the Springboks 35-23 at Ellis Park to snap a three-match losing streak.
The fallout will be immense, with the defeat coming in Christchurch — the city that Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson calls home, and where he has led the Crusaders to six Super Rugby titles since taking over in 2017.
“First of all congratulations to Argentina,” Foster said. “I thought they kept true to how they want to play and really frustrated us, didn’t they?
“We didn’t get what we wanted at the breakdown, we had large periods of dominance at the set-piece and that didn’t go well at the end. But overall, I thought they got away from some stuff at the breakdown and we weren’t able to deal with it.”
Foster added: “They grew an arm and a leg we probably got a little bit flustered. We’ve got to look at our composure … and we’ve got to make sure we’re more ruthless at the breakdown.”
The All Blacks might have scored the opening try through hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, but they faced huge pressure inside the opening 20 minutes.
Two penalties either side of the hooker’s 11th minute try gave the visitors the lead midway through the first half, but a penalty to Richie Mo’unga and a try to barnstorming winger Caleb Clarke has the All Blacks on top.
But another two penalties to Boffelli saw the visitors go into half time trailing 15-12.
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While Richie Mo’unga gave the home side some breathing space early in the second half, Gonzalez’s try saw Los Pumas take the lead with Boffelli’s conversion.
Penalties in the 57th and 66th minutes to Boffelli saw the visitors kick clear to a converted try lead.
The All Blacks had the chance to steal a late win, with the home side camped on Argentina’s line. But a not straight lineout throw from Codie Taylor proved pivotal, with Argentina being awarded a scrum before kicking the ball out to seal the incredible win.