Argentina have toppled New Zealand for the first time in a rugby Test, winning 25-15 to blow the Tri-Nations title race wide open.
Argentine coach Mario Ledesma wept tears of joy after plotting the Pumas’ first win over the All Blacks.
Led ferociously by flanker and inspired captain Pablo Matera, the Pumas dominated in almost every facet to notch a historic 25-15 victory in Sydney on Saturday.
Ex-Wallabies mentor turned Pumas assistant Michael Cheika was also a conspicuous figure alongside Ledesma in Argentina’s coaches’ box as the delirious South Americans rejoiced following their torrid triumph.
“Everything is hard in Argentina and at the moment it is one of the toughest times in our country so we want to show people that if you fight and you work hard, you get what you fight for,” Matera said.
Nicolas Sanchez scored all 25 of the Pumas’ points from a try, a conversion and six penalties in a record-setting display from the potent playmaker.
It was the most points collected in a Test in the two teams’ 30-match rivalry stretching to 1985.
While the All Blacks entered the game battled-hardened after four Bledisloe Cup stoushes with the Wallabies in barely a month, the Pumas were playing their first Test in more than a year.
But there were no signs of rust, just one solitary handling error as they outclassed the three-time world champions all over the park.
Matera was mighty and Sanchez punished the All Blacks for their ill-discipline.
He opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty before his New Zealand counterpart Richie Mo’unga replied to level the scores.
But by the time Sanchez had bagged a brilliant chip-and-chase try and banged over two more penalties, the Pumas went to the break with a 16-3 advantage.
Despite captain Sam Cane briefly reducing the deficit to nine points with the All Blacks’ first try in the 53rd minute, the Pumas were never going to be denied, converting their biggest halftime lead over New Zealand into a rousing win.
Caleb Clarke crossed for a consolation five-pointer after the siren, but it was too little too late.
“That was very tough,” said vanquished skipper Cane.
“Full credit to Argentina. They came out from the first whistle right to the end 80th (minute) with probably a little bit more intent and urgency than us.
“They beat us at the breakdown, off the line and they thoroughly deserved the win.
“They kept coming and they put their bodies in front really well and we struggled in continuity and to put them under pressure.”
After succumbing to the Wallabies last week, the All Blacks have now suffered back-to-back Test defeats for the first time since 2011.
“We’re hurting greatly,” said All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
“That was a frustrating response to a similar game last week.
“It’s the second week in a row where we haven’t had good composure when things haven’t quite gone our way…again we got rattled.”
Almost 10,000 fans flocked to Bankwest Stadium to witness the famous victory, which sets the stage for a thrilling climax to the six-week competition.
The winner of next Saturday night’s Wallabies versus Pumas clash in Newcastle will leapfrog the All Blacks and go top of the table, ensuring the new-look rugby championship goes down to the wire.