NEW ZEALAND 28
Conrad Smith said during the week it was a matter of when and not if Argentina would beat the All Blacks.
Few dared to suggest it would be tonight but, based on the evidence that emerged at McLean Park, it could be a case of sooner rather than later.
Argentina are closing the gap between themselves and the All Blacks, of that there is no doubt. Once substantial, the repetitions allowed by their inclusion in the Rugby Championship means that gap no longer looks anywhere near insurmountable.
The South Americans showed in tonight's defeat they are much more than just a scrum.
They genuinely threatened in the first half and, if not for a pair of errant but well-timed drop goal attempts, they could have even led as late as the 30th minute.
In addition to that opportunity, Argentina had a perfectly good try scrubbed out in the second half, when referee Pascal Gauzere inexplicably found a knock on in Leonardo Senatore's legitimate charge down on Ma'a Nonu, and it was a try that would have been far from undeserved.
Los Pumas possess an admirable knack for sticking with teams - a fact abundantly clear in a pair of narrow losses against South Africa to begin the Rugby Championship. And in Napier, just when it appeared as though the All Blacks were about to blow them out, Argentina turned the tide.
The All Blacks celebrate Julian Savea's second try. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea had scored his second try of the night and the home side were turning the screws but, unlike some more esteemed opposition, Argentina survived the severe test and went on to enjoy one of their best spells of the match.
There was also the period early in the first half when Argentina had the All Blacks pinned in their own corner and could have scored the game's opening try, just as they have done in three of the last four meetings between the two sides.
A silly error in the scrum - supposedly their greatest strength - gave the All Blacks a little bit of breathing room, but they were never comfortable.
That much was illustrated by Richie McCaw opting for a couple of shots at goal when presented with penalties in the final 20 minutes, before Aaron Smith's try added gloss to the scoreline.
And while no eyebrows will be raised if the All Blacks are again triumphant when they travel to La Plata later in the month, there will be a similar lack of surprise if that outcome is reversed sometime in the next few seasons.