All Blacks 34
The All Blacks have won the Rugby Championship with a test to spare, a bonus-point victory over Argentina at La Plata today in which Julian Savea again proved he is one of the deadliest backs in the world sealing their dominance.
Savea scored a try, had one ruled out, and provided one for replacement halfback TJ Perenara as the All Blacks capitalised on a dominant first half to once again roll over the top of the Pumas at the Ciudad Estadio de La Plata near Buenos Aires.
Apart from Savea's deeds - he burst past three defenders to score his try and offloaded under immense pressure to assist Perenara, and the winning of the trophy, there was much for Steve Hansen to be happy about, not least the performance of second-five Malakai Fekitoa.
Fekitoa's game sense, particularly in the first half, was outstanding. After failing to get his decision-making right in the Sydney stalemate, Fekitoa shone in the unfamiliar position after switching from centre to cover for Ma'a Nonu's absence. His passing was crisp and accurate and his running game came into its own in the latter stages. He was also very accurate on defence.
The All Blacks relished the dry conditions after playing in the constant rain of Wellington a fortnight ago against the Springboks, and Napier a week earlier against the Pumas.
They targeted the Argentine outside defence and it was here that Savea, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg cashed in. Smith was the first beneficiary when Dagg, capitalising on an off-the-top lineout win, stretched the defence and passed inside to Smith, who returned the favour a short time later with a no-look outside pass following a quick counter-attack from halfway.
Isreal Dagg set up the All Blacks' first try and scored the second. Photo / AP
After an ill-disciplined start, the Pumas found ground up the middle but a lack of composure meant they couldn't capitalise, two recurring themes for them in this Rugby Championship.
They got little traction in the scrum, with Joe Moody showing his mettle from the first minute when Wyatt Crockett was off repairing a cut under his eye from the first collision of the test. He replaced Crockett, his right eye all but closed up, in the second half.
With the All Blacks putting on immense pressure in the lineout, a lack of ball meant the Pumas spent a lot of time on the back foot.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in action. Photo / AP
After an entertaining first half the test hit a hiatus after the break before Savea exploded into action. He was judged to be offside when running on to a Beauden Barrett chip, but timed things perfecting when throwing off three would-be tacklers and his offload to Perenara, after a scything run from Jerome Kaino, was a deft touch.
Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu proved there is plenty of life left in his aging legs when playing 73 minutes before making way for Nathan Harris to make his debut.
Lock Brodie Retallick went off for a concussion test in the second half and didn't return. He appears to be the only obvious injury concern ahead of next week's test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
All Blacks 34 (Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, TJ Perenara tries; Beauden Barrett 4 cons, 2 pens,
Argentina 13 (Horacio Agulla try; Nicolas Sanchez 2 pens