Winger Julian Savea scored two tries and New Zealand claimed another from a tighthead against a vaunted scrum to beat Argentina 28-9 tonight in a Rugby Championship test at McLean Park in Napier.
Savea touched down in the 26th and 43rd minutes for his 25th and 26th tries in 25 test appearances while flanker Liam Messam tipped the match strongly in New Zealand's favor with a try from a clean tighthead on the tick of halftime.
Beauden Barrett started a test at flyhalf for the first time in New Zealand and, while his missed four of five shots at goal, played a creative role in three tries before being replaced.New Zealand blunted Argentina's traditional weapons of choice - its scrum and rolling maul - and also met the challenge of the Pumas' contestable kicking in slippery conditions.
Savea's opening try allowed the All Blacks to head towards halftime with an 8-6 lead and Messam's score immediately before the break eased the pressure Argentina had been able to impose at times in the first half through a varied kicking game.
When Savea scored again shortly after the re-start, the All Blacks had breathing space and they were able to comfortably retain their unbeaten record in this season's championships after their 12-12 draw and 51-20 win over Australia.The Pumas's defeat followed their 13-6 and 33-31 losses to South Africa and they remain without a win after two and a half seasons in the Rugby Championship.
They have yet to beat the All Blacks in 19 tests.New Zealand enlarged its winning margin, and claimed a four-try bonus point, with a simple try from a scrum to halfback Aaron Smith eight minutes before full time.
"It's the first time we've managed to get a bonus point off them at home," New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said. "We've played them three times in atrocious conditions.
"They're a handful, they're a big pack in those conditions. We made a lot of mistakes, I guess, but we'll go away and it will give us something to work on."
Argentina garnered deserved praise for their spirited performances against the Springboks and should have had their first win in the Championships in the second of those two tests. But while they competed against the All Blacks on Saturday, their play remained not just one-dimensional but often negative and spoiling.
They were focused on the forward contest to the almost total exclusion of backplay and they used kicks only as a means to confound a defense but not as a lever to break one.
They should have had a try in the 57th minute when, while trailing 18-6, flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe charged down an attempted clearing kick by New Zealand center Ma'a Nonu, reclaimed the ball and dashed to the goalline. French referee Pascal Gauzere incorrectly ruled a knock-on when the charge down was clearly legitimate.
Gauzere made a number of fundamental errors. In the third minute he was unsighted when Savea was tackled without the ball, denying the winger what might have been an earlier try.
Savea made up for the oversight in the 26th minute, and after a dull and nondescript beginning to the match, when the All Blacks were finally able to establish some continuity.
Barrett put a short kick behind the Pumas' defense which was brilliantly reclaimed by lock Brodie Retallick and when the All Blacks quickly recycled the ball, center Conrad Smith drove another kick behind Argentina's defense which Savea fielded to score.
The All Blacks gained a narrow ascendancy in the second quarter, stepping up their performance at set pieces and beginning to play with more fluency from a sound territorial base.
When they got the shove on an Argentina scrum just before halftime, the ball squirted onto the All Blacks side.
Barrett reacted superbly to the unexpected attacking chance and pierced a gap in the interior defense.
Messam also ran a brilliant instinctive line from the blindside of the scrum and when the flyhalf looked for support he found the flanker unmarked.Barrett also provided a neat head fake and short pass that allowed Savea to bust the defense on the inside and score his second try.
Aaron Smith scored himself as the All Blacks, wearied and weakened by injuries, eased towards fulltime.
A strong scrum gave the All Blacks a base to attack and Kieran Read detached to feed Smith who scored.The All Blacks lost lock Sam Whitelock to a serious rib injury and Messam with a hip problem.
"It was a very tough game," Pumas captain Agustin Creevy said through an interpreter. "We have been working a lot and we are a little bit angry because of the opportunities we missed today. "
---New Zealand 28 (Julian Savea 2, Liam Messam, Aaron Smith tries; Beauden Barrett penalty; Colin Slade conversion, penalty), Argentina 9 (Nicolas Sanchez 3 penalties). HT: