Argentina served up one of the biggest upsets in Test rugby history when they stunned New Zealand 25-15 in the Tri-Nations on Saturday, beating the three-times world champions for the first time in 30 attempts going back 35 years.
An inspired Nicolás Sánchez scored all of Argentina’s points with a try, six penalties and a conversion, and the Pumas held off a fierce late onslaught to secure a famous victory in their first Test for more than a year.
The Argentinians were given almost no chance of registering a victory in their tournament opener after being kept off the pitch for almost the entire season by the global health crisis. The Western Sydney Stadium was a most unlikely venue for their first win over the All Blacks but the ecstatic Pumas players gathered in front of a small band of their compatriots at the final whistle and celebrated with song and dance.
“They just showed themselves as they are, the players are like that and Argentinian people are like that,” said coach Mario Ledesma. “I think for a long time we were copying what other people were doing, but we’re different, just different, really proud of being different. This is really special for us.
“It’s kind of surreal. Just even playing that game after everything that has happened for Argentina this year. Some of the players have not seen their families for four months and they haven’t complained once. I think we’ll remember this for a long time … I guess somebody will write a book about it.”
The All Blacks coach Ian Foster insisted his team had not underestimated Argentina after losing back-to-back Tests for the first time in nine years.
“You can tell by my body language that I’m not excited by it,” Foster told reporters. “We certainly didn’t underestimate them, we’ve had those sort of arm-wrestles with them before. They are a team we have massive respect for. They challenged us on our composure and it’s probably two weeks we haven’t handled that very well.”
Foster paid tribute to the Pumas, who have spent much of their preparation time for the tournament in quarantined environments in South America and after arriving in Australia. “We saw a team that everybody said their disadvantage was that they hadn’t played a lot of rugby,” he said. “[But] they came here with massive energy, and probably a massive desire to prove something for their country who have gone through a heck of a hard time.
“There’s no excuses, it’s an All Blacks jersey and we have to do our best every time. But there certainly was a contrast in the intensity of the two teams.”
Foster said there was plenty of work to do in the two weeks before New Zealand’s final match, also against Argentina. “We’ve got to recharge and make sure we finish on a high,” he said. “We don’t like having another team play with more intensity than us so we’ve got to figure out how to respond.”