All Blacks are true champions
New Zealand showed their true championship qualities with an emphatic 54-15 win over Argentina.
New Zealand showed their true championship qualities with an emphatic 54-15 win over Argentina in La Plata on Saturday.
The seven-tries-to-two victory ensured that the All Blacks were crowned the inaugural Rugby Championship title holders with one more round in the competition to go.
Wings Cory Jane, with a hat-trick, and Julian Savea scored five of their teams tries. The other two came from centre Ma'a Nonu and scrumhalf Aaron Smith.
The clinical and merciless world champions recovered from conceding an early try to score four and build a 32-8 half-time advantage at a packed Estadio Ciudad de La Plata.
Argentina also started the second half well and scored another try only for the men in black to once again wrest control and right wing Cory Jane completed the rout in the final minute with his third touchdown.
Fit-again flyhalf Dan Carter, who missed the last two rounds of the Southern Hemisphere championship due to a calf injury, slotted three conversions and two penalties and Aaron Cruden two conversions and a penalty.
Scrumhalf Martin Landajo, who had an outstanding game, and right wing Gonzalo Camacho scored a try each for Argentina and flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez kicked one conversion and one penalty.
It was a sad night for the Pumas, who entered the game hoping to test the All Blacks after holding South Africa in Mendoza, matching the All Blacks for 60 minutes in Wellington and nearly defeating Australia on the Gold Coast.
They failed in Australasia because they could not last the pace, but that was irrelevant in this city south of Buenos Aires as the All Blacks gave their finest performance of the Championship to record a fifth consecutive victory.
Winning with a bonus point lifted New Zealand to 21 points followed by South Africa (12), Australia (eight) and Argentina (three) with the final fixtures scheduled for next weekend.
Captain Richie McCaw thrived on another challenge, a rare appearance in Argentina and led the side to show the home town fans why the All Blacks were world champions and what the home team must aspire to in their future development.
No.8 Kieran Read was again instrumental in support play and running the ball back while there was unrelenting support whenever the All Blacks ran the ball.
Argentina enjoyed a lively start to the game, but the pace the All Blacks played at took its toll.
Showing a much greater willingness to run the ball than in the first encounter in Wellington, Argentina had early reward when scoring the first try of the game after a clean line-out take. Employing miss out moves to get the ball wide quickly, Argentina created space for Amorosino to race onto the ball at speed.
He evaded McCaw's cover tackle and raced ahead to be taken by wing Julian Savea. However, the ball was cleared quickly for Landajo to race away to score in the eighth minute.
The lead was short-lived as Argentina paid the price for not getting support up the sideline for a clearing kick by Juan Martin Hernandez as the quick throw was taken creating room for wing Cory Jane to take the ball forward on the flank. The ruck developed and from the base inside centre Ma'a Nonu acting as scrumhalf ran straight up the middle to split the defence and pass to No.9 Aaron Smith for the try under the posts in the 15th minute.
Carter showed he was over his calf injury with a stunning break through the midfield soon after and was just stopped when his ankles were clipped but in the resulting play Argentina was penalised and Carter landed the penalty goal.
Back on attack, the All Blacks dropped two players from a line-out to create the close quarter diversion and left wing Jane ran across in support to be tackled on the right. From the ruck the ball was cleared to Read running onto the ball at full speed. He cut back to the short side and found Jane on the sideline with his pass for the wing to score on his opposite flank.
Hernandez landed a 26th minute penalty goal to post 100 points in Test matches but from the restart Carter landed his second penalty goal to extend the lead to 20-8
In the 30th minute the All Blacks avoided punishment after an attempted chip kick by flank Liam Messam was caught by Argentina and moved to the right but the ball spilled loose in a tackle and Savea was able to toe it ahead, kick it again over the line and win the race to the touchdown.
Savea was in again after a classic All Blacks build-up with the ball moved left and right in sweeping moves across the field. Read was again prominent, along with Nonu, in getting the ball over the advantage line and with quick clearance Carter was able to put the charging Savea over in the corner.
Argentina started the second half with an impressive display of forward power as they took advantage of several penalty opportunities conceded by the All Blacks and finally in the 47th minute wing Gonzalo Camacho burst away from a ruck to score.
But that merely serve to boost the All Blacks' appetites. At a penalty conceded by the Pumas, they kicked for the corner then executed their own rolling maul with firstly McCaw taking the ball to the line and then prop Tony Woodcock. When the ball was released Savea came back on the cut, held his feet and flicked the pass to Jane who scored.
Just to prove their control and dominance the All Blacks put all their substitutes on by the 55th minute and from a line-out straight afterwards, replacement five-eighths Aaron Cruden ran through a gap, flicked the ball to Nonu and he raced away to score.
The final touch came in the last minute when Jane completed an intercept try to record a hat-trick.
Man of the match: Argentina's best players were, as usual, captain Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe and midfielder Marcelo Bosch. New Zealand had plenty of heroes who put their hands up for this award. There was flyhalf Dan Carter, who was again the conductor that kept the orchestra in tune. No.8 Kieran Read was huge on defence and chasing kicks, winning the ball out of the air like a back - as he showed the full array of skills that makes him the world's premier eighthman. Of course, hat-trick hero Cory Jane and fellow wing Julian Savea were in the running. However, our award goes to All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Best known as an openside flank, and while he was again a menace at the breakdown, his immense work on defence made him the standout player.
Moment of the match: This one goes to Julian Savea's second five-pointer, in the 38th minute - which sealed the first four-try bonus point for the All Blacks this year and wrapped up the championship for them. It also showed all what is good about New Zealand rugby, as the All Blacks' up-tempo off-loading catches the home team flat-footed. Cory Jane's third try came when the Pumas had given up and was an intercept score when the Argentinean attack was more than just a little lethargic.
Villain of the match: Nobody, just heroes.
Tries: Landajo, Camacho
For New Zealand:
Tries: A Smith, Jane 3, Savea 2, Nonu
Cons: Carter 3, Cruden 2
Pens: Carter 2, Cruden
Argentina: 15 Lucas González Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Julio Farías Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Tomás Vallejos, 19 Tomás Leonardi, 20 Nicolás Vergallo, 21 Martín Rodríguez, 22 Juan Imhoff.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Francisco Pastrana