All Blacks seal championship despite slump
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP REPORT: New Zealand put the seal on yet another championship with a comprehensive 36-10 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday night.
The All Blacks showed just how much depth they have by outscoring Los Pumas by five tries to one.
Assured of retaining the title before the kick-off after South Africa and Australia drew, the All Blacks were awesome at times as they built a 29-3 lead on 28 minutes.
But the champions became ragged after half-time and the much-improved Pumas kept them scoreless until new cap David Havili scored a last-gasp try.
In fact the All Blacks had two men sin-binned for repeated offences, while the Pumas also had two players yellow-carded.
However, they were never in danger if losing the contest against an undisciplined Argentinian outfit.
The score by the substitute wrapped up a bonus-point victory that lifted New Zealand to 24 points with one round remaining in the Southern Hemisphere championship.
South Africa, who host the All Blacks in Cape Town next Saturday after being humiliated 57-0 in New Zealand this month, have 13 points, Australia 10 and Argentina none.
Apart from Havili, skipper Kieran Read (two), Damian McKenzie and Waisake Naholo were the New Zealand try scorers.
Playmaker Beauden Barrett, who conjured up some first-half magic, kicked four conversions and a penalty to top the competition scoring charts this season with 67 points.
Veteran Juan Manuel Leguizamon celebrated his 80th cap for the Pumas with a try and Nicolas Sanchez slotted a conversion and a penalty.
It was the fifth title for New Zealand since Argentina joined the competition in 2012 and the Tri-Nations Championship became the Rugby Championship.
"I am proud of the boys who defended brilliantly at times," New Zealand number eight and skipper Read told reporters.
He said leaving some stars at home and giving starts to fringe players worked for a team that will be chasing a third consecutive world title in Japan in 2019.
"It was good for the less experienced boys in the team to sample playing in one of the toughest atmospheres in world rugby.
"David [Havili] produced some special touches when he came on and his try rounded off a special day for him.
He said the team's "scrumming was really good", adding: "Overall, it was a performance to be proud of and we now look forward to facing the Springboks in Cape Town."
Man of the match: Agustin Creevy is always good value for his team. Damian McKenzie produced plenty of magic, Waisake Naholo announced his return, Aaron Smith was pure class and Kieran Read was ... well Kieran Read. While McKenzie gave him a good run for his money, our award goes to New Zealand No.10 Beauden Barrett, for yet another flyhalf masterclass.
Moment of the match: The second of Kieran Read's tries, in the 26th minute, when Damian McKenzie went on one of his many runs and off-loaded perfectly to his captain on the inside. It is the epitome of everything that is good about All Black rugby - vision, skill, sublime support play and most of all it is entertaining.
Villain: New Zealand captain Kieran Read was fortunate his sin-binning was not of a more permanent nature. However, Argentina's discipline has become a major problem and lock Tomas Lavanini is one of the main culprits - as he earned himself yet another yellow card.
For New Zealand:
Tries:Read 2, McKenzie, Naholo, Havili
Cons: Barrett 4
Yellow cards: Tomas Lavanini (Argentina, 22 - foul play, no arms in tackle), Matt Todd (New Zealand, 38 - repeated infringements, collapsing a maul), Kieran read (Mew Zealand, 51 - foul play, high tackle), Ramiro Herrera (Argentina, 67 - repeated infringements, collapsing the scrum)
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Santiago Cordero.
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 David Havili.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)