NELSON – Coach Steve Hansen gave his rearranged All Blacks a pass mark after their 46-24 victory over a much-improved Argentinian side Saturday, but conceded they weren't as good as they should have been.
Hansen made eight changes to his starting line up for the third-round Rugby Championship match, saying he needed to see how less experienced squad members could handle pressure if called up for next year's World Cup.
The situation was not helped by losing Brodie Retallick and Ngani Laumape early in the match and having Ben Smith off the field for a 10-minute head injury assessment, which forced a rethink of how to handle the bench in the second half.
But the All Blacks outscored Argentina six tries to three for a bonus point victory that Hansen said was imperfect but showed a lot of resilience.
Los Pumas coach Mario Ledesma blamed his side for not taking advantage of green-looking All Blacks combinations, bemoaning that New Zealand replied almost immediately each time Argentina scored.
But Hansen said the All Blacks had still expected to win despite the changes.
"We expect to play well and we expect to win well, and even when we make changes, like we have, those expectations don't change.
"We got the opportunity to blood some young men and they got put under pressure by a good Argentinian side. I thought they played particularly well at times and put us under pressure so we had to show a lot of mental fortitude."
Hansen said the fact Argentina scored three tries showed the All Blacks' defensive work "wasn't as good as it could have been, but every time they scored we came back and that showed a lot of strength of character."
Ledesma said the All Blacks scored too many easy tries, punishing Argentina for a misfiring scrum and missed tackles.
It left the South Americans still winless against New Zealand after 27 Tests with one draw to go with 26 losses.
They have recorded wins against the two other sides in the Rugby Championship – Australia and South Africa – with victory over the Springboks two weeks ago ending an 11-match losing streak in the competition.
Ledesma said developing the self-belief that his side could beat New Zealand remained a problem.
"I thought that for periods of time we were competing pretty well against the best team in the world and then we lose by 20 points," he said.
Argentina briefly led 7-3 early in the match with a converted try to Ramiro Moyano after a Richie Mo'unga penalty opened the scoring for the All Blacks.
Nehe Milner-Skudder and TJ Perenara quickly responded for the All Blacks with Mo'unga landing a conversion and a second penalty to have New Zealand up 18-7 at the turn.
When Nicolas Sanchez scored and converted to get Argentina within four points of New Zealand at the start of the second half, Ben Smith replied with a try for the All Blacks.
A penalty by Sanchez saw the All Blacks reply with Perenara's second try and when Sanchez put Emiliano Boffelli in for Argentina's third, the All Blacks came back with two more through Shannon Frizell and Jack Goodhue.AFP