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Baby Blacks thrash Pumas at World U-20s

New Zealand have retained their unbeaten record against Argentina at age-group level by taming the Pumas at The Rugby Championship Under-20 tournament in Australia.

New Zealand outscored Argentina six tries to three in the 43-20 victory at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Wednesday to secure a crucial bonus-point with a round to play.

Argentina demolished hosts Australia last week but New Zealand showed no initial signs of being daunted by a much-vaunted pack, leading by two converted tries after just six minutes. 

Hooker Vernon Bason drew two defenders as an anchor in a midfield for a move designed to create swift movement out wide. Centre Xavi Taele sailed clear and delivered back inside to halfback Dylan Pledger.

Taele and Pledger were two of New Zealand’s best. Pledger cleared swiftly and was sprightly with ball in hand. Taele carried robustly, distrusted precisely and had little hassle containing his comparatively listless opposites. 

No 8 Malachi Wrampling was another to produce a powerful display. In the sixth minute, he used his long reach to stretch out after identifying the weak shoulder of an opposing tackler and driving forcefully ahead.

New Zealand scored their third try after 20 minutes with a similar movement that led to their first. This time wings Frank Vaenuku and King Maxwell combined to send Wrampling clear in the space the wings would typically occupy. 

Malachi Wrampling Baby Blacks Under-20 rugby
Malachi Wrampling (left) scored two tries for the Baby Blacks against Argentina. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

New Zealand coach Jono Gibbes warned prior.

"This pack that they (Argentina) have here is, I think, probably bigger than the South African pack. They are big, heavy, dense guys and they are really well drilled.”

Argentina lost lock Luciano Asevedo to the sin-bin for a high tackle but took out their frustration by winning a scrum penalty. A lineout drive involving their entire team followed and Julian Rossi scored.

After resisting a mammoth Argentina drive before the interval, New Zealand ironically struck with their own 10-metre shove shortly after the break.

Soon, however, Argentina would stifle the Kiwis with their dogged but dour approach. Another driving try sliced the deficit to 31-15 and then some rare enterprise.

Reserve first-five Santo Di Lucca proved nifty and that enlivened halfback Agustin Sarelli who fooled New Zealand with a rare snipe to send Ignacio Torrado rampaging away.

The contrast in approach between the two countries was best illustrated when Pledger scored his second try. King Maxwell provided the final pass in a sweeping movement that involved half a dozen pairs of hands.

New Zealand's lineout was more accurate and their discipline defending mauls reasonable given the full frontal Pumas tactics. 

First-Five Rico Simpson did not miss a shot at goal and was fluid on attack. Openside Matt Lowe was hearty and lock Liam Jock toiled gamely again.

New Zealand’s last match of the TRC is on Sunday against Australia.

New Zealand 43 (Dylan Pledger 2, Malachi Wrampling 2, Andrew Smith, Ben O’Donovan; Rico Simpson 5 con, pen) Argentina 20 (Julian Rossi, Juan Manual Vivas, Ignacio Torrado tires; Mateo Fossati pen, Santo Di Lucca con). HT: 24-8


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