Such has been the recent improvement by Argentina it was perhaps unfortunate for them that they had to face an All Blacks side determined to respond to one of their worst performances in a long time.

There was always going to be a reaction from Steve Hansen's men at Estadio Jose Amalfitani today and the most obvious was the five tries they scored – two to Rieko Ioane in the first half – as they did what they couldn't do against South Africa in Wellington a fortnight ago and capitalised on virtually all their opportunities.

The Rugby Championship has been retained before their trip to South Africa and the final test next weekend, and there is plenty to celebrate besides that.

There was a comeback of sorts by the Pumas at the start of the second half once the All Blacks got an almost unassailable lead – and probably for that reason – but the home side was hamstrung by a dysfunctional set piece due in part to the constant pressure coming at them.


There were so many good news stories for Hansen after the woe at Westpac Stadium that it's almost difficult to know where to start, so we'll begin with the pack and its utter dominance and the performance at No8 from Ardie Savea, into the starting line-up due to Luke Whitelock's illness; the impact from the two props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi, and Angus Ta'avao when he came on; Sam Cane's workrate and lock Patrick Tuipulotu's performance when he came on for Sam Whitelock.

Members of the All Blacks celebrate with the Rugby Championship. Photo / AP
Members of the All Blacks celebrate with the Rugby Championship. Photo / AP

Beauden Barrett was clearly determined to draw a line under his performance at Westpac Stadium and he did it by kicking all four of his shots at goal – two from the sideline in the first half - but once he went to fullback for Ben Smith for the final quarter, Richie Mo'unga put in a mightily impressive performance at first-five.

But away from the headline acts of Barrett and their speedsters Ioane and Waisake Naholo, the response could be seen in particular in their defence.

They were horrified at conceding five tries to South Africa in Wellington a fortnight ago but here in front of a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires they were watertight in the first half, even during the 10-minute absence of midfielder Sonny Bill Williams, who was yellow-carded just before halftime for being offside twice in a couple of minutes.

The Argentines used to pride themselves on their scrum but those days are well over on this evidence. The black machine exerted so much pressure that we had the bizarre sight of the Pumas not trusting themselves to win their own ball back.

The Pumas came into it off the back of two victories over the Springboks and Wallabies but their set-piece performance was so poor here, and the visitors so dominant, it's anyone's guess as to how this will affect their confidence.

It may have played a part in a bizarre decision by No10 Nicolas Sanchez to attempt a cross-kick from an attacking penalty rather than kick for touch but the ball sailed instead into the arms of Naholo.

This was a test which frayed at the edges in the second half and referee Mathieu Raynal had only the slimmest control of it as frustrations grew and tempers flared. He had to deliver bad news to Pumas skipper Agustin Creevy so often he probably felt compelled to award Tomas Cubelli's try – against the advice of the television match official.


Emiliano Boffelli's try probably gave the Pumas false hope more than anything, but Anton Lienert-Brown's try from Mo'unga's cute kick through was just reward for all.

New Zealand 35 (Rieko Ioane 2, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Beauden Barrett 4 cons, Richie Mo'unga con)
Argentina 17 (Tomas Cubelli, Emiliano Boffelli tries; Nicolas Sanchez pen, 2 cons)
Halftime: 21-3