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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 01:30 GMT
All Blacks scrape past Pumas
Doug Howlett is wrapped up by Argentine tacklers
The Pumas defended bravely against the All Blacks
Argentina 20-24 New Zealand

New Zealand needed a late try to avoid handing Argentina their first ever win against the All Blacks.

The hosts led by three points in injury-time at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, but Scott Robertson crossed in the corner to break the hearts of the 55,000 crowd.

New Zealand coach John Mitchell described the win, in which Jonah Lomu scored a first half try, as "lucky".

"We were two minutes from glory," Argentine prop Mauricio Reggiardo lamented after the final whistle.

"Those two minutes are what separate glory from defeat."

The Pumas, brimming with confidence following three victories on their recent European tour, capitalised on two All Black errors for their tries by captain Lisandro Arbizu.

  Scores and scorers
Argentina 20
Tries: Lisandro Arbizu (2)
Cons: Felipe Contepomi (2)
Pens: Contepomi (2)

New Zealand 24
Tries: Jonah Lomu and Scott Robertson
Con: Andrew Mehrtens
Pens: Mehrtens (4)

But following Arbizu's opening effort, New Zealand took full advantage of an extra man when Argentine half-back Agustin Pichot sat out 10 minutes in the sin-bin for butting.

Argentina had caught their illustrious visitors off guard with strong attacking play in the opening exchanges, but Lomu returned in kind.

The wing ended a typically charging run with a touchdown having brushed off four potential tacklers.

However, the Pumas fought back and nosed ahead on the stroke of the half-time whistle with a Felipe Contepomi penalty.

When Doug Howlett fumbled a pass behind his own try line and Arbizu scored his second try, the crowd were beginning to dream of a famous win.

With time running out Contepomi was handed a golden chance to seal victory with a penalty in front of the posts, but, to the great relief of the All Blacks, the fly-half's effort went wide.

The miss gave New Zealand the chance to rally and deep into injury time full-back Ben Blair launched a counter-attack before releasing Robertson for the score in the corner.

The try and the subsequent conversion by Andrew Mehrtens, who moved past 800 Test points with a 14 point haul, saved the All Blacks from an embarrassing defeat.

"We knew what Argentina were capable of and we were lucky to have won this one," Mitchell admitted after the match.

Argentina: I Corleto, G Camardon, J Orengo, L Arbizu (captain), D Albanese, F Contepomi, A Pichot, M Reggiardo, F Mendez, O Hasan, I Fernandez Lobbe, R Alvarez, S Phelan, R Martin, G Longo.

New Zealand: B Blair, D Howlett, T Umaga, A Mauger, J Lomu, A Mehrtens, M Robinson, D Hewett, A Oliver (captain) K Meeuws, C Jack, N Maxwell, R Thorne, R McCaw, S Robertson.

Referee: Scott Young (Australia).

See also:

05 Dec 01 |  Rugby Union
Pichot plots All Black shock
27 Nov 01 |  Rugby Union
Rugby's new world order
24 Nov 01 |  Rugby Union
Late All Black assault crushes Scots
18 Nov 01 |  Scotland
Pumas defeat lacklustre Scots
17 Nov 01 |  Rugby Union
All Blacks subdue brave Irish
10 Nov 01 |  Rugby Union
Pumas maul poor Wales
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