New Zealand powered their way into the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship semi-finals with a nine-try 60-0 win over a hard-hitting Argentina team at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.
Though the scoreline suggests otherwise Argentina did offer a tough test to the tournament favourites in this Pool A decider, putting up a fierce resistance before eventually succumbing to superior attacking skills in the second half.
It was a tough opening first quarter with Argentina throwing themselves into tackles and making life tough for New Zealand, who had to be patient to get their first score on the board.
Centre Ryan Crotty and wing Sean Maitland showed glimpses of their attacking prowess with some early running and New Zealand finally breached the Argentinean defence in the 22nd minute when fly half Daniel Kirkpatrick cut through and offloaded to wing Joe Hill who dived over in the corner.
Argentina kept the game tight and used their organised pack to set up some good ball, which they used effectively with the likes of full back Luis Torres Adaro proving a real threat out wide.
As the half wore on though New Zealand got on top of the game and second row Sam Whitelock got on the scoresheet when he crossed out wide in the 31st minute after some slick build-up. A penalty from Trent Renata then edged New Zealand 15-0 ahead at the break.
Argentina needed to score first in the second half to give themselves any chance of a fightback, but it was the team in black who came out of the blocks stronger and a perfectly executed backline move saw Kirkpatrick slide through the defence to touch down within five minutes of the restart.
Crusaders wing Maitland then grabbed two tries to put the result beyond doubt at the hour mark before Zac Guildford added another with his first touch of the ball having come off the bench.
New Zealand saved their best scores till last when first Hill raced over the line again after some brilliant interchanges between Renata, Hugh Reed and Nasi Manu which had the crowd on their feet, and then Kade Poki dashed through the defence for two more fine tries to wrap the game up.
It was the perfect end to the pool games for New Zealand, who will be hard to stop on this form with Pool D winners Wales – a last gasp winner over France in Swansea – the next to try and derail their title challenge.
New Zealand Co-Coach Russel Hilton-Jones: “We just wanted to ensure that we played good percentage rugby and control possession and we’re pretty happy with it. The first half was torrid and we knew we’d have to try and wear them down and earn the right to move the ball wide by having a good set-piece so I was pleased we managed to do that.”
New Zealand Man of the Match Daniel Kirkpatrick: “In the second half we put the pressure on and it all went well. The forward pack really got us backs some good ball and it’s a lot easier playing behind a pack going forward. There were a few set moves we wanted to try and happily they came off today. The semis will be another hard game especially against the home team.”
Argentina Assistant Coach Diego Albanese: “We were competitve for the first 20 minutes but we lost two key players in our pack and we started to miss one on one tackles and if you do that against New Zealand you are in trouble. It was a great experience for the boys to play this team and we hope they will learn from a top team. Hopefully it will help them for the future.”
Argentina Fly Half Benjamín Madero: “We are very disappointed but New Zealand are a great team and they played very well and they deserve to win. Now we have two very important matches and the plan is to win them. We have to work on some errors to try not to make so many mistakes.”