Richie McCaw says the All Blacks have finally delivered a performance worthy of a world champion side.
The All Blacks captain was full of praise for the manner in which they clinched the Rugby Championship with a 54-15 victory Argentina yesterday.
It has been a long time coming - eight tests this year since New Zealand won the World Cup - but McCaw and coach Steve Hansen were understandably elated by the win in front of 50,000 at Ciudad de La Plata stadium.
"It's probably one of our best performances of the season,'' he said. "When we started out four or six weeks ago, the goal was to put last year behind us. We've got the tag of world champions and we needed to play like them. to secure the Rugby Championship was obviously the big goal and it's nice to be able to do that, but I think tonight to put out that performance, it's something the guys are pretty happy with.
"It's nice obviously scoreboard wise but it's the manner in which we did it which is so satisfying. There's a happy bunch [of players] down there.''
Argentina tried to play more of an expansive game than they did in their Wellington defeat three weeks ago, but they were blown away by the All Blacks. They were beaten all over the park, but particularly in the forwards, who haven't been up to par in recent weeks, and the rewards came in the form of seven tries, three to Cory Jane, two to Julian Savea, and one each for Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Smith.
The set pieces were solid, the ruck cleanouts effective. The fast men appreciated the quick ball and looked a different class to their Argentine counterparts.
The Pumas scored first through halfback Martin Landajo but Aaron Smith replied for the All Blacks and it was virtually one-way traffic after that.
Jane clinched his third try a minute before fulltime.
Having put the pressure on his forwards to up the ante, Hansen was happy with the response.
"We're very satisfied by winning the Rugby Championship but also about the way we played,'' he said. "We train all week to do things with purpose and accuracy in our execution and by and large tonight we achieved that. I'd also like to pay credit to Argentina, who came to play rugby. When you get two sides who want to play footy, you get a game like we got tonight.
"I don't think anyone who anyone who wouldn't have enjoyed the occasion. I think the Argentine fans would be disappointed that they weren't closer on the scoreboard but they should be thoroughly proud of their team because they never gave up at any stage and were playing just as hard at the end as they were in the beginning.
"The cleanout was the big area we were disappointed with after the South African test and tonight they were spot on. I thought we played pretty well in that area. There's still parts of our game that we've got to work on. We can pat ourselves on the back and enjoy the moment but there's still areas to improve one and one of them is the delivery and connection between the forwards and backs. The first two lineouts I think we struggled to do that and that's platforms we didn't have to attack off. Once we worked into the game and got our composure and dealt with what was happening to interfere with the calmness and clarity inside their brains we linked up and did score some great tries. To be able to attack like that you've got to have a platform to attack off so the forwards can be very proud.''
Lock Luke Romano and centre Conrad Smith left the field in the first half with cuts to their faces and didn't return, but the injuries aren't thought to be serious.
The All Blacks leave for Johannesburg tomorrow (Mon) for a dead rubber against South Africa.
New Zealand 54 (Cory Jane 3, Julian Savea 2, Aaron Smith, Ma'a Nonu tries; Dan Carter 3 con, 2 pen, Aaron Cruden 2 con, pen) Argentina 15 (Martin Landajo, Gonzalo Camacho tries; Juan Martin Hernandez pen, con) HT: 32-8.
* Patrick McKendry flew to Argentina courtesy of LAN Airlines (www.lan.com).
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick