All Blacks lucky to escape Pumas

FOR more than a brief moment, Argentina looked as though it could usurp Japan as the biggest giant-killers of this World Cup.

Just a day after the Cherry Blossoms pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sporting history by downing South Africa 34-32, Argentina had the World Cup record crowd of 89,019 at Wembley buzzing when it led the All Blacks 16-12 with less than 25 minutes on the clock.

But a controversial ruling by English referee Wayne Barnes, which led to a try to fullback Aaron Smith (pictured), followed by another five-pointer by back-rower Sam Cane saw the defending champs victorious 26-16.

Apart from the whole-hearted effort by the Pumas, the match will be remembered for the jeering of New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who was sent to the sin-bin on the 30-minute mark for a typically cynical professional foul that has polarised fans in the latter stages of his career.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen tried to put a positive spin on the reception afforded his skipper.

"It's normal over here, isn't it?" he said. "It's been happening for years and it's a lack of respect for a great player. You have to be great to get booed. If you're no good, nobody cares."

In other results, Australia's Group A rival Wales thrashed minnow Uruguay 54-9, and Samoa downed the USA 25-16. But Wales' win came at a cost with centre Corey Allen, who scored a first-half hat-trick, forced off with a torn hamstring.

- APN SPORTS BUREAU


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