Analysis: How Los Pumas managed to topple the All Blacks for the first time

Analysis: How Los Pumas managed to topple the All Blacks for the first time

Heading into their Tri Nations test match against the All Blacks on Saturday, Argentina had never beaten the All Blacks with their record reading 29 tests, 28 losses and one draw. 

Before Saturday, the closest Argentina had ever come to beating the All Blacks was back in 1985 as the sides shared the spoils in Buenos Aires. However, more recently the Pumas have showed signs that a win wasn't too far out of their reach. Before the Rugby World Cup last year they managed to finish within four points of All Blacks keeping New Zealand scoreless in the second half of the clash again in Buenos Aires. 

Saturday's result was even more impressive as Los Pumas managed to topple the All Blacks winning the match by 10 points, 25-15, in their 30th meeting with the three-time Rugby World Champions. 

Looking through recent victories over the All Blacks, there is a common trend in that all the victors have followed. That is that you have to play with passion, defend incredibly well, better them physically, take your chances and execute your plan perfectly with two or three truly world-class individual performances to see you through. Even if you check all the boxes you can still come undone.

When the Springboks managed to beat the All Blacks in 2018 they checked all of these boxes in Wellington with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley both having incredible games while the Boks won key moments of the game which resulted in tries for Willie Le Roux and Aphiwe Dyantyi. 

Ireland were similarly brilliant in their most recent win over the All Blacks with Kieran Marmion, Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander starring in the win with the well-executed try for Jacob Stockdale proving pivitol. The same can be said of England and Australia in their wins. 

On Saturday, Argentina had a number of players step up to the mark and put in world-class shifts notably, Nicholas Sanchez, Julian Montoya, Pablo Matera and Marcos Kremer.

Mario Ledesma's side came into the clash with the plan of suffocating the All Blacks' attack by slowing down their ruck speed while also making it incredibly difficult for the All Blacks to keep the ball alive. This is highlighted by the fact that the All Blacks managed just two line breaks the entire game.

To put that stat into context, Sevu Reece made three line breaks alone against the Wallabies in their 24-22 loss a week ago while the All Blacks managed 12 in their loss to England in the World Cup semi-finals. 

Both of the All Blacks' clean breaks came in the final three minutes of the game with the first having no impact on the game and the second resulting in the final score. Replacement hooker Codie Taylor notched up a clean break off of an offload from Ardie Savea but after breaking the line he looked to link up with Brad Weber but the scrumhalf spilt the pass.

The second was the result of another offload, this time from Beauden Barrett wit Clarke managing to beat the cover defence to score.

In recent years, the All Blacks' offloading game has caused havoc for their opponent's defence and the Pumas were well aware of this and were sensational in nullifying this. 

Ledesma's side adopted the style of defence that was so effective with Wales while Shaun Edwards was the side's defence coach. 

What made Wales so difficult to attack against during the 2019 Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup was just how effective they were in slowing the ball down for the opposition. 

The way they achieved this was double tackling, choke tackling and competing at the breakdown. The likes of Marcos Kremer and Pablo Matera were key to this for the Pumas on Saturday with the former making 28 tackles in total while Matera was a hulking presence in the rucks winning three turnovers. 

Bruni and Kremer provide a perfect example of this just 14 minutes into the game. From a lineout, Ardie Savea breaks off a maul and being one of the All Blacks best carriers, he storms into the Pumas defence and would normally give the All Blacks quick front foot ball to attack from. However, Bruni hits the flanker in the midriff.

Savea has to pump his legs in order to get to ground which buys time for the rest of the Pumas attack to get into place. Kremer does similarly to Shannon Frizell on the same phase as he holds the blindside up before he is taken to ground. Sam Cane tries to win the by pinning Kremer in the breakdown but referee Angus Gardner is wise to the All Black captain's tactics and orders him not to hold him in.

On the next phase, the All Blacks spread the ball wide to Jordie Barrett and Julian Montoya is in the perfect position to win the penalty and Argentina can clear. Another pivotal point to Argentina's victory was what they did once they won a turnover. Far too often in the past, Argentina have been guilty of trying to play too much rugby in their own half.

Learning from these mistakes, the Pumas quickly sent the ball long via the boots of Nicolas Sanchez and Tomas Cubelli whenever they won a turnover. They took a simple approach to this by playing just one or two phases to work the angle or simply get their chasing line in place before kicking. There was just once instance in their own 22 where this was not the case. 

After the turnover from Codie Taylor's line break, Los Pumas shifted it wide to Orlando who tried a chip kick over the top. Argentina managed to get the ball back before replacement scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou played to pods of forwards before Sanchez cleared down field. 

Again this was another part of the game where Argentina defended well. 

When Sanchez and co did kick for distance, the chasing lines were excellent from the Pumas. Here they don't sprint up and chasing the kick but rather work as a collective.

This means that once McKenzie catches the ball he almost has 20 metres between him and the defence but because Sanchez has kicked near the touchline, they know the All Blacks will shift the ball infield.

Once McKenzie does exactly that, Caleb Clarke is looks up to see a full Pumas' defensive line in front of him.

Out numbered out wide with Rieko Ioane the only back set to attack, Clarke opts to run it 

He is met in the tackle by Tomas Lezana with replacement props Mayco Vivas and Santiago Medrano both lending a hand to drive him back and again buy time while sucking Richie Mo'unga into the ruck, making it even more difficult for the All Blacks to attack from there.

The Pumas defence was incredibly vital to their win on Saturday as the tackled at an 89% success rate which was a vast improvement from 2019 where they bettered that success rate just once (v Tonga 95%). The 16 tackles of their 152 attempted that they did miss did not have a huge impact on the game as there was more often than not a player there to cover. 

While their defence was a standout in the victory, it is almost impossible to beat the All Blacks on defence alone. Argentina were just as excellent on attack against in Sydney. As mentioned before Argentina refrained from attacking from inside their own 22. They also rarely attacked from between their 10m line and their 22 opting to rather to pin the All Blacks back in their own half with kicks.  

Sam Cane, Ardie Savea and Dane Coles often get the All Blacks out of sticky situations with a key turnover or penalty but their impact in this area of the game was mitigated by the way Argentina attack. The Pumas managed to generate quick clean ruck ball on Saturday with the use of offloads while also making sure that the ball carrier was supported by two or more cleaners each time he went into contact.

They also mixed it up well with multiple ball carrying options at the line. This is all summed up well in the build-up to Nicholas Sanchez's try. From the lineout, Santiago Chocobares runs directly into Sam Cane, one of the All Blacks' best players over the ball. The strong carry and quick ball generated allows Cubelli to get the ball out quickly to Sanchez who will often break through defences with a hard run to the line. Mo'unga sees this and shoots up on Sanchez who simply drops the ball on to Naul Tetaz who makes a strong carry. 

Again on the attack down the opposite side the All Blacks are kept guessing as Cubelli gets the ball back from Montoya with Gomez-Kodela running a convincing dummy line to keep the All Black forwards in check. Sanchez then gets it on the loop from Cubelli and takes three All Black defenders with him as carries to the line. 

The Pumas follow this up with a few phases of pods of three hitting it up before Peti carries with little support, Delguy quick spots this and snipes before Patrick Tuipulotu has the opportunity to try make a steal. The very next phase, Kremer also finds himself with little support and manages to get the offload away to Sanchez with Sam Cane and Caleb Clarke lurking to get over the ball after Savea's tackle. 

The patient and controlled attack finally pays off when Cane is penalised for a side entry at the ruck. Sanchez is quick to pull the trigger with the free shot knowing that he has an easy shot at the three points if it doesn't pay off. It's key to note this as Argentina were also quick to take any points on offer throughout the game. Sanchez kicked for goal after Matera was held up by Richie Mo'unga over the line later in the game despite the resulting lineout from the penalty being just 5m from the All Blacks' tryline.

The historic victory for Argentina was extraordinary and incredibly well deserved considering that it was their first test match since the Rugby World Cup in Japan some 400 days ago. Meanwhile, it was the All Blacks fifth test match since then. While a few of the Pumas players like Sanchez, Matera and Kremer would have been match fit from playing in the TOP14 and Premiership, a number of the Los Pumas players had just one or two runouts against sides in Australia ahead of the test. 

The All Blacks certainly weren't on top of their game against the Pumas but their performance was impacted by the brilliance of Argentina. The All Blacks lost two of their 19 lineouts on Saturday but their set-piece was far from effective with Guido Petti and Matias Alemanno disrupting their ball at every opportunity. 

Loosehead prop Nauel Tetaz Chaparro was also fantastic in the scrum as he dominated Tyrel Lomax who was making his first start for the All Blacks while Julian Montoya took over the role as the Pumas first choice hooker from Augustin Creevy and put in a shift that the former captain would be more than proud of. 

Argentina have always played with extreme pride and passion for their country with captain Pablo Matera epitomising this early on with this interaction with referee Angus Gardner. 

Incredible sporting victories often have the common theme of playing for something more than the game with the Springboks Rugby World Cup victory a perfect example and Argentina's maiden victory over the All Blacks was no different with Matera delivering the following message to his countrymen.

“This is a big day for Argentina, for our country and our people.


“It's very tough down there at moment.

“I knew it was tough for us to come here and prepare ourselves for this tournament.

“We just wanted to show our people if you work hard with a lot of determination you can get things done.

“So, we are really proud of this team and for our country.”


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