New Zealand ease past Argentina to reach World Cup final

New Zealand were never really troubled by Argentina as they cruised into the final of the World Cup
©Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

New Zealand are into a fifth World Cup final after beating Argentina 44-6 in a largely underwhelming clash in Paris.

A lively start from the Pumas allowed Emiliano Boffelli to open the scoring with a penalty but the All Blacks were quick to assert their dominance as Will Jordan, Jordie Barrett and Shannon Frizell all crossed before the break for a 20-6 lead.

Ian Foster's troops continued to squeeze the hope out of Argentina as Aaron Smith and Frizell scored shortly after the interval before Jordan completed his hat-trick to round off a performance in which the All Blacks hardly had to get out of first gear.

Whilst this opening semi-final quite obviously wasn't a patch on the breathless fixtures we witnessed last weekend - and because of that, those who made the draw will have fingers pointed at them - New Zealand won't care a jot. Even as recently as last summer, reaching the showpiece finale on October 28th might have seemed like a distant goal.

A first-ever series defeat against Ireland on their own patch followed by a loss to South Africa seemingly left Foster's job hanging by a thread. Only a victory against the Springboks at Ellis Park a week later confirmed the head coach would still be in his post through to this World Cup.

But even after that, a shock defeat to Argentina in Christchurch left many wondering where the mighty All Blacks had gone.

A comprehensive defeat against South Africa at Twickenham - prior to this World Cup - and then against France in the tournament opener may not have improved that perception but you got the sense last week, against Ireland, when it mattered most, New Zealand refound themselves.

“There’s not a personal agenda here, this is about the All Blacks and the team," said Foster who will be replaced after the World Cup by Scott Robertson. "Things have happened to individuals and to me [in terms of criticism], but the team comes first. Right now we’re making a lot of those decisions together as a group and it is working well."

Skipper Sam Cane may well have encapsulated that strong togetherness with his steely focus in the tunnel before kick-off but it was Argentina who started the brighter in Paris.

They opened up by throwing 14 phases at the All Blacks and after a period of pressure, New Zealand prop Tyrel Lomax was pinged for a tackle off the ball and Boffelli - like he did so effectively against Wales last week - landed the resulting penalty.

But Argentina's neat and tidy start was short-lived. A penalty to New Zealand allowed Beauden Barrett to send it deep into the corner and the three-time world champions punished their southern hemisphere counterparts, who may have felt a bit aggrieved with some of the refereeing decisions that went against them.

"I wasn't very happy with the refereeing in the first-half, especially in the rucks," Argentina boss Michael Cheika said. "I think it's his [Angus Gardner's] way of doing things. Every time we were in their 22 we encountered the same problem.

"In over 20 years I've realised whether I like it or not, I can't change it."

The All Blacks showed no mercy and were as clinical as ever with Jordan going over virtually unopposed in the right corner after nice play from the excellent Sam Whitelock. Argentina then tried to string their phases together again but this time, there was no way through a stubborn New Zealand defence who turned over the ball through winger Mark Telea which set Rieko Ioane away.

A combination of lovely offloads and patient play between forwards and backs eventually saw Jordie Barrett smash his way over to stretch the All Blacks lead.

There was a look of 'what now?' about Argentina but they kept plugging away at the New Zealand defence and after some storming carries, the All Blacks were pinged for not rolling away and the Pumas reduced the deficit from the tee to six points.

Perhaps that spurt of pressure could have yielded more for Argentina because they were instantly punished from the kick-off. To their frustration, they conceded a penalty and New Zealand earned a kicking opportunity of their own which Mo'unga didn't pass up in front of the sticks.

With the rain starting to come down at the Stade de France, handling errors began to increase and from a scrum penalty, New Zealand effectively ended the contest. More well-oiled build-up play was sparked into life by Telea, who bounced off a couple of tackles before the All Blacks found the edges again via Sith and Mo'unga for Frizell to dot down with ease.

The relentless nature of this All Blacks performance filtered into the second period as a solid scrum - and good work from Savea - set Smith free for try number four before some wonderful footwork from Mo'unga kick-started 18 phases for New Zealand, a passage of play that was finished off by Frizell.

The returning Telea - who had been dropped for disciplinary reasons last week - then popped up to create Jordan's second just after the hour and even with Scott Barrett picking up a yellow card, the All Blacks winger went on to score a stylish third as he latched on to his own chip and chase to rubber-stamp New Zealand's place in the final.

A record fourth title is now within touching distance for Foster and his side, and who would have thought that this time last year?

"I'll be watching it, have some popcorn and watch it," Foster said on Saturday's other semi-final between England and South Africa. "But I don't care who wins. We are focused on ourselves and the extra day gives us chance to have a break mentally. South Africa have been playing some brilliant rugby but we've also seen an English team that has built quietly. It will be an interesting contrast of styles."