Injury count a concern
New Zealand laid down another marker in the Rugby Championship with an emphatic 28-13 win over Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday.
The All Backs outscored the Pumas by three tries to one at a very wet Waikato Stadium.
However, there will be some concern over the leg injury suffered by All Black captain Richie McCaw, who hobbled off in the 60th minute and looked very uncomfortable. It appears that teammate Charley Faumuina landed on his skipper in a tackle and twisted his knee into an uncomfortable position.
Replacement prop Wyatt Crockett was also taken off the field with what looked like bad concussion and a few other players looked rather tender after the game.
No doubt we will get more details about the injuries in the next 24 hours.
It was another game in which the opposition showed promised, looked threatening initially, only for the Kiwis to shut the door on them in the second half.
The first scrum was a good indication of the Argentineans' intent - they were going to go back to their strengths, the set pieces.
They won a few crucial penalties in the scrums, even though they conceded one of their own.
However, their line-outs were not always as secure as their scrums.
With rain coming down early in the match, much heavier than predictions suggested, the Pumas also made liberal use of the boot - with mixed results.
As for New Zealand, they simply stick to what they do best - making the opposition pay for errors through their clinical counter-attacking play and sublime handling. The manner in which they can suddenly just speed up the game continued to trouble allcomers.
While their forwards were under pressure in the scrums, they made life uncomfortable for the Pumas in the line-outs and employed their usual array of tactics to spoil matters for the visitors at the breakdown - often getting penalised.
The most telling aspect was that the Kiwis did not change their approach, despite the treacherous conditions. They still shifted the ball like they would on a dry, afternoon game.
Even with the handling errors mounting, as the rain started coming down even harder in the second half, the All Blacks stuck religiously to their guns.
The first points came from an All Black error, Francis Saili dropping a high bomb and the Pumas quick on the counter, slick handling putting No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon going over. Nicolas Sanchez added the extras - 7-0 inside five minutes.
A penalty against Eusebio Guiñazú at a ruck/tackle thing allowed Dan carter to open New Zealand's account in the 11th minute.
Guiñazú was again penalised in the 14th minute, but this time Carter's attempt bounced off the upright.
The penalty count continued to mount against the Pumas at the breakdown, and after a chat with their captain carter was afforded a third shot at goal - this time pushing it even further wide.
The yellow card was inevitable and it was Guiñazú was sent to the sin bin just past the first quarter mark after yet another infringement.
And the visitors were made to pay a dear price on the scoreboard.
In the space of a couple of minutes they conceded two tries to scrumhalf Aaron Smith. The first came after a miracle off-load from Kieran Read to the scrumhalf, after a patient build-up and the second had its origins in a brilliant break by Dan carter deep inside his own half.
The Pumas managed to arrest the momentum and a Sanchez penalty made it 10-15 just before Guiñazú returned to the playing field.
And Argentina hung in there to the break, still trailing by just five points (10-15) at half-time.
It was a scrum penalty early in the second half that produced the first scoring chance after the break, Carter slotting the kick for an 18-10 lead.
The Pumas, angered by the audacity of the Kiwis to try and outscrum them, demolished the All Blacks at the next scrum and quickly won a kickable penalty. Sanchez made it a five-point game again - 13-18 after 53 minutes.
However, the Kiwis made the Pumas pa for another mistake - Kieran read launching the counter, which finished with Julian Savea scoring the try after some quick recycling and great handling. Carter's conversion put the game beyond the Pumas - 25-13, even with another 25 minutes to go.
All that remained was to see if the All Blacks could get the four-try bonus point.
They had their chances, but the conditions saw a number of those slip through their hands ... literally.
When Puma captain Juan Martin Fernandez was penalised for holding back an opponent, Beauden Barrett made it 28-13, with five minutes left on the clock.
And that it how it stayed to the end.
Man of the match: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe showed his value as both captain and player, even though he was lucky not to have been sin-binned late in the second half for holding back an opponent, while Pablo Matera did some great work on defence. Dan Carter's ability to read the game and make good calls - which puts him well ahead as the world's best flyhalf - was again on display. Aaron Smith was a constant threat around the fringes. Kieran read was not to be outdone in the skills department - his miracle off-load to Aaron Smith for New Zealand's opening try was simply sublime. However, our award goes to All Black flank Steven Luatua - who was involved in most of the action, but he was most impressive when ranging wide on the outside near the wings, where his superb handling skills were on display.
Moment of the match: There were some great tries, from both teams, but the yellow card to Argentinean hooker Eusebio Guinazu was the turning point in a match that was very even for most part. The All Blacks took the lead and never relinquished it.
Villain of the match: The was simple - the most costly error in the match. Argentina hooker Eusebio Guinazu was yellow carded in the 23rd minute for repeated infringements at the breakdown. Even after the referee warned him, he continue. His 10 minutes in the sin bin robbed the Pumas of the early momentum they had and a two-try blitz in his absence saw the Kiwis take the lead, after they looked under some considerable pressure in the first quarter.
For New Zealand:
Tries: A Smith 2, Savea
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 2, Barrett
Pens: Sanchez 2
Yellow card: Eusebio Guinazu (Argentina, 23 - repeated infringements at the breakdown)
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5 Julio Farias Cabello, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Felipe Contepomi, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)