Gregor Paul on Tri Nations rugby: Outclassed All Blacks got nowhere near Argentina

Argentina have made history and the All Blacks have the sort of problems that suggest they are horribly vulnerable and highly beatable. It wasn’t that they lost to the Pumas, it was that they never really got anywhere near them.

The All Blacks had nothing. Really nothing and rarely in the last 10 years, maybe even in the last 20, have they played with such a sense of being rattled and so badly outclassed.

Argentina nailed every little and big part of their game. They were supremely brave in every facet and maybe a defensive effort like the one they gave won’t ever be reproduced.

They won’t care about that. All they know is that they have finally beaten the mighty All Blacks. They hammered them in fact and reduced them to a shambolic, unimaginative, uninspiring body of players that couldn’t catch, couldn’t pass, couldn’t win their lineouts and worst of all, couldn’t bring the same passion and intensity as the Pumas.

The All Blacks have such a proud record, over such a long time, and this performance will have to go down as one that shamed the legacy.

They didn’t look like All Blacks. Not even for five minutes and five tests into Ian Foster’s coaching reign the All Blacks have done what they haven’t done in nine years and lost consecutive tests and what they haven’t done ever – lose to Argentina.

What’s now beyond dispute is that the All Blacks have an endemic problem with discipline. They have a problem with just about everything they are doing but it’s the way they can’t get their heads in the game that has to be the most worrying.

They are the hot heads of the world game – easy to rile up as if they collectively suffer from fragile egos that can’t cope with the mildest provocation.

The best All Blacks teams have been able to absorb the most severe assaults – ears being bitten, testicles ripped open, spear tackles and eye gouging without so much as yelp.

But in recent weeks Australia have shown that it only takes a few unkind words, a bit of lingering after the tackle and some All Black or other will take it as an invitation to show their masculinity.

They have become the angry pub drunk – wrongly of the view that everyone is looking at them the wrong way or spilling their pint. It’s a problem they can’t fix.

A problem they won’t fix if Shannon Frizell can’t find a better way to channel his frustration. A problem if Dane Coles is going to be daft enough to slap people in front of the referee.

And it’s a problem that is illustrative of their being something almost fundamentally wrong with their mental preparation at the moment.

In Wellington they were passive and reactive. In Brisbane they were wild, and uncontrolled and in Sydney against the Pumas they were a mix of everything but nothing remotely close to being poised, calm and clear.

Mostly they were just inaccurate, guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and attacking with a total lack of imagination or variation.

The rest of the world mocked Warren Gatland for playing what became known as Warren Ball. But at least his brand of no frills football worked.

It’s one thing to be dull, but no one minds so much when it actually produces results. To spend 80 minutes trying to crash their way up the middle of the field and not often be able to hold on to the ball or get over the gainline – was more depressing than it was boring.

Depressing because the skill execution was appalling. It would be remiss to not acknowledge the outstanding defensive effort by the Pumas who gave one of the great tackling performances of the modern age.

It was just fantastic how they held their line and never flinched. We might not see a defensive performance as good as that for years but the All Blacks did it make easy for them.

They didn’t trick them with much. They didn’t hold the ball long enough to tire them or force them to make any reactive decisions and they simply weren’t good enough.

Nowhere near it and they fell the wrong side of history in Sydney because they were pushed there by their own inadequacies and chronic failings.

Outclassed and beaten up by the Pumas – this is a low point for the All Blacks and one that no one should be sure they can turnaround particularly quickly.

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