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All Blacks win against Pumas comes at cost of McCaw

Richie Mcaw. AFP Photo
HAMILTON, New Zealand (AFP) - The All Blacks produced an error-strewn performance and lost captain Richie McCaw in the process as they downed Argentina 28-13 in their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday.

McCaw was left writhing in agony with a knee injury and coach Steve Hansen said he could be out for at least four weeks.

McCaw had been one of the few All Blacks to impress as they took control midway through the first half, when piling on 12 unanswered points in a 10-minute spell, after Argentina were punished with a yellow card for a professional foul.

But it was not the performance the All Blacks wanted for their 382nd victory, which put them level with France as the most successful Test-playing nations.

The three-tries-to-one win was also not the warm-up they wanted before the expected tougher challenge next week from the Springboks.

In a game that lacked rhythm in the constant drizzle that fell throughout, the All Blacks went three from three in their quest to retain the Rugby Championship title after having previously swept past Australia 47-29 and 27-16.

They lifted their try tally to 11 from the three matches with Aaron Smith scoring twice in the first half and Julian Savea touching down in the second.

Flyhalf Dan Carter, in his comeback Test after being sidelined with a calf injury, became the first player to top 1,400 Test points when he lifted his tally to 1,409 before he was replaced early in the second half.

Juan Manuel Leguizamon scored Argentina's sole try, with Nicolas Sanchez adding a conversion and two penalties.

With ample possession at their disposal, New Zealand tried to play with pace and width, only to be upset by the fast-closing defensive pattern employed by the South Americans which forced multiple handling errors.

The All Blacks made an atrocious start.

Carter's first touch was a forward pass, Argentina won a scrum penalty and then Francis Saili spilled a simple pass from which Juan Figallo snapped up the loose ball and sent Leguizamon on a 22-metre run to the line.

Sanchez's conversion had Argentina unexpectedly 7-0 ahead with only six minutes gone.

Carter replied with a penalty but missed two more, as Argentina's aggressive approach cost them penalties but continued to rattle the All Blacks.

The game turned after 22 minutes, when hooker Eusebuo Guinazu was yellow-carded for a professional foul and the All Blacks chalked up 12 points in his absence.

A deft pass by Kieran Read around the back of Martin Landajo put Aaron Smith over for their first try with Carter converted from the sideline.

Carter then cut through the Argentina backline on a 50-metre run from which Ben Smith chipped ahead for his namesake Aaron to score his second try.

To counter the long-range strikes by the All Blacks, Argentina lifted their kicking game to regain territory, and when eventually rewarded with a handy penalty, Sanchez slotted the goal to narrow the gap to 15-10.

Carter and Sanchez exchanged further penalties after the resumption before Savea scored the All Blacks' third try after Read charged down a Landajo clearing kick.

Sanchez replied with his second penalty before Beauden Barrett, who replaced Carter, landed a simple three-pointer after Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe was found guilty of holding back Saili in a race for the ball.
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