All Blacks 33
A strong second-half performance from the All Blacks has subdued a spirited Argentina at La Plata, with Ben Smith's late try, his second of the match, allowing them to put one hand on the Rugby Championship trophy.
Smith's try just before the fulltime hooter was manufactured from nothing but could prove to be extremely important as it gave the All Blacks a four-try bonus point. The five competition points from a tough test puts the All Blacks five points ahead of South Africa with a match at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, next Sunday.
The Springboks' failure to score a bonus point in their 28-8 victory over Australia in Cape Town earlier today could be costly as they need to score four tries against the All Blacks and deny the visitors anything in order to claim the title.
"They're going to have to play now, they're going to have get four tries to get the five points,'' All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said afterwards.
"Our guys are already looking forward to it, they've already starting talking about it, so it will be no problem getting them up.''
Hooker Keven Mealamu, who did well when replacing Andrew Hore in the second half, said: "I think we're heading into a storm over in South Africa but that's what we play for as All Blacks and rugby players.''
The words ``Be Physical'' were written on a wall in the All Blacks' changing room but the Pumas probably had an edge in that area in the first half. The All Blacks scored the only try of the opening 40 minutes, left Julian Savea showing pace and power to skirt the defence on a 65m run and go over in the corner but the Pumas defence was otherwise impressive; every tackle roared on by the big crowd.
Aaron Cruden missed the conversion twice - he was awarded another shot by referee Jaco Peyper due to an early charge by the Pumas. As he awarded Cruden another shot, which he missed to the left, Peyper also informed security staff of a green laser pointer being shone by a member of the crowd on to the ball.
Three penalties to Pumas first-half Nicolas Sanchez kept the home side in it, with their skill in the lineouts and power in the scrums also proving extremely valuable.
The Pumas had the edge on the All Blacks in that set piece thanks in part to Owen Franks' groin injury _ one powerful scrum in the first half marching the visitors backwards and resulting in a Sanchez penalty.
After the break however, they simply couldn't stay with the visitors, although the score didn't blow out to the 54-15 thrashing at this ground last year.
"We were a lot more clearer in what we wanted to do in the second half,'' Hansen said.
"We kicked a lot better, we got a lot more urgent before we needed to get desperate and as a result of that we started going forward.''
Flanker Sam Cane, who came into his own in the second half, scored a deserved try down the left touchline before Ben Smith touched down for the try of the match.
Ma'a Nonu's superb pass into space following a Brodie Retallick lineout win sent Smith through and he easily beat fullback Juan Martin Hernandez.
The pace of the game was beginning to hurt the Pumas. Their composure on attack wasn't great in the first half and that slipped further as they chased the game.
Cruden, back from a knee injury for his first game since the first Championship match in Sydney, was replaced after 71 minutes by Beauden Barrett.
Cruden's probing runs in the second half allowed the All Blacks to get on the front foot.
The midfield of Nonu and Conrad Smith, playing in their 50th test together, exerted their dominance and what followed was one-way traffic. Nonu said: "We got a bit of a wake-up call from Steve at halftime. I guess we just had to do the basics really, hold on to the ball and just do the right things.''
All Blacks (Ben Smith 2, Julian Savea, Sam Cane, tries; Aaron Cruden 3 pens, con, Beauden Barrett con)
Argentina (Nicolas Sanchez 4 pens, Marcelo Bosch pen)