Win is a win and at times the margins are pretty small... Round 1 saw a four point margin of victory for All Blacks...what will Round 2 deliver?

Round 1 of The Rugby Championship 2019 saw New Zealand escape Buenos Aires with a tight 20-16 victory over Argentina, the All Blacks hanging on despite not scoring a single point in the second half. Round 2 of the campaign sees Australia hosting Argentina and New Zealand at home to South Africa. Both corresponding games in 2018 were also incredibly tight affairs, Argentina picking up their first win (23-19) in Australia since 1983 and South Africa prevailing by two points for their first win (36-34) in New Zealand since 2009. Ahead of the weekend, let’s throwback to those thrilling encounters and shine a spotlight on the key players.  

Indeed, the Springboks and All Blacks will face off on Saturday in Wellington, the same venue where the South Africans triumphed in 2018. New Zealand went down despite outscoring their opposition six tries to five as New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett had a wayward evening with the boot, missing four shots at goal. The All Blacks No.10 did manage to provide the assist for the first try of the match, putting his brother Jordie Barrett through a gap to score. The home side doubled their advantage just over 10 minutes later as winger Ben Smith made a clean break before passing on the inside to his Highlanders’ Super Rugby team mate Aaron Smith, who touched down as the scoreboard now read 12-0 to the All Blacks following a successful conversion from Beauden Barrett. Crucially, South Africa were the next to score, a well-executed move finished off with a try to winger Aphiwe Dyanti.

The Springboks continued to rally, posting further tries to hooker Malcolm Marx and fullback Willie Le Roux to lead 21-12. However, it would be the All Blacks who notched the final try of the first half, responding in the 38th minute of play, as winger Rieko Ioane found space out wide to cross over. Springboks’ fly-half Handre Pollard scooped the final points of the first stanza, slotting a penalty goal to send his into the break with the lead 24-17.

Fans in attendance and those watching home didn’t have to wait long for the first try of the second half, South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe capitalising on an interception opportunity to score the Springbok’s fourth try. The Springboks led 31-17 following Handre Pollard’s successful conversion but New Zealand refused to falter, striking back 10 minutes later as Rieko Ioane gathered a pass from Beauden Barrett to notch his second of the match. The All Blacks’ winger wasn’t the only player to snare a double as his opposite number Aphiwe Dyantyi scored his second try in the 57th minute to give his side a 36-24 lead. The final quarter saw the All Blacks cross the whitewash twice, with hooker Codie Taylor and flanker Ardie Savea finding the try-line. Ultimately, it was the Springboks who managed to hold the hosts at bay and prevail 36-34.

All Blacks beat Pumas by just four points in Round 1 

All four players in the match to pass 50 in metres gained were New Zealand outside backs - Jordie Barrett (79), Ben Smith (73), Rieko Ioane (84) and substitute Damian McKenzie (63). The Springboks put in a mountain of defensive work to hold on for a win; the away team boasting 11 players in their line-up who made double figures in tackles, led by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert (24 each). The All Blacks’ leading tackler in the game was No.4 Sam Whitelock with eight.  

Australia outscored Argentina three tries to two on the Gold Coast; the Pumas finishing on top thanks to penalties from Emiliano Boffelli and two from Nicolas Sanchez, the Australians missed their single penalty goal attempt. It was Boffelli’s penalty goal which opened the scoring for the match after five minutes, the Wallabies producing the first try of the proceedings five minutes later as Will Genia crossed over. The lead for the home side was a brief one as the Argentines crossed over three minutes later as Sanchez added a try to his points haul. Israel Folau, playing on the wing in this match for Australia, showcased his talent with an impressive try of individual brilliance. Despite the setback, the Argentines continued to ramp up the pressure and were rewarded in the 36th minute when No.14. Bautista Delguy grounded the ball for the Pumas’ second try of the match. The half-time score showed a slim 17-14 lead to Argentina.

It took eight minutes into the second-half for the scoreboard to be troubled, Nicolas Sanchez nailing another penalty to send Argentina ahead by six points. The Wallabies scored the final try of the match in the 55th minute as fullback Dane Haylett-Petty picked up a five-pointer to reduce the deficit. Crucially, Australian No.12 Matt Toomua missed the conversion attempt that would’ve given his side the lead, coming back to bite the home side in the 77th minute as Emiliano Boffelli kicked another penalty goal to seal the victory for Argentina.

Despite being subbed off in the 33rd minute, the Pumas’ Ramiro Moyano gained the most metres (95) of any player in the match from his four carries. Closely followed by his team mate and fellow winger Bautista Delguy (89 metres gained). David Pocock was the only Australian player to reach double figures in tackles (10) compared to six players for Argentina, topped by Pablo Matera (15 tackles).

Such fine margins the last time these fixtures took places makes Round 2 of The Rugby Championship 2019 all the more intriguing.