Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks overcome Argentina in Rugby Championship test

The All Blacks have begun their World Cup preparations with a hard-fought 20-16 win over Argentina in their first Rugby Championship test match of 2019 on Sunday (NZ time). 

New Zealand, who were held scoreless in the second half, were pushed to the limit with the game hanging in the balance all the way to the final whistle. 

They managed to defend two ferocious Argentinian lineout drives after the fulltime siren, but the hosts couldn't force the try that would have bagged a first victory in 29 meetings between the nations.

The All Blacks breathed a huge sigh of relief when referee Angus Garnder ended the match. 

The All Blacks were missing a number of key players - including captain Kieran Read - who were being rested for next weekend's test against the Springboks in Wellington. 

As expected, there were plenty of nerves from both teams in what was a scrappy encounter at Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires, but it was New Zealand's experience which got them over the line. 

The All Blacks led 20-9 at thanks to tries from Ngani Laumape and Brodie Retallick to go along with two conversions and two penalty goals in what was a perfect night off the tee for Beauden Barrett. 

Barrett's first penalty goal saw him become the fourth New Zealander to score 600 test points, behind Grant Fox (645), Andrew Mehrtens (967) and Daniel Carter (1598). 

The Pumas had a couple of good chances to score tries in the first half, but great defence, including a huge tackle from debutant Sevu Reece kept the hosts abay as they settled for three penalty goals, two from Nicolás Sánchez and one from Emiliano Boffelli.

Fullback Boffelli then scored the only try in the second half, when he ripped the ball out of Ben Smith's hands in the air. 

Sánchez then missed his easiest penalty goal attempt midway through the second half which would have made it a one-point game. 

From there, both teams had opportunities to strike key blows, but lacked the necessary finishing, with the All Blacks ultimately holding on for victory.

Number eight Ardie Savea was huge for the All Blacks, while Barrett was his usual self on the field. 

Reece was great in his debut on the right-wing, while prop Atu Moli, flanker Luke Jacobson and outside back Braydon Ennor all earned their first caps off the bench. Uncapped first-five Josh Ioane failed to get on the field. 

The All Blacks will now get on a place and return to New Zealand to begin their preparation for their next test against the Springboks at Westpac Stadium. 

The match will be the second of five games New Zealand will play before their World Cup defence begins against South Africa on September 21 in Yokohama. 

South Africa sit atop the standings after they beat the Wallabies 35-17 at Ellis Park. 

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