Chalk up the scrappy nature of the All Blacks in Argentina to continued growing pains.

Like an infant experiencing teething issues so, too, is this All Blacks team progressing through the development stages.

Victory over the Pumas in Buenos Aires, which clinched another Rugby Championship title, was never in doubt but also won't be remembered fondly. The second half was a terrible watch.

In context, though, it's easy to appreciate why the All Blacks will take the obvious positives and swiftly move on to Cape Town.


This match was viewed as another chance to build depth; to learn and grow on the path to the next World Cup. Combined with managing workloads in another long campaign, that's why five starters, all of whom are expected to return against the Springboks next week, were left at home.

It's also easy to forget the All Blacks have already lost starting front rowers, Owen Franks and Joe Moody, and vice-captain Ben Smith is on sabbatical.

Fringe players, who, with mixed results, savoured the chance to step up, should absorb the contrasting blend of game time, lessons and confidence. Long term, that should prove invaluable.

But any wonder there were elements of immaturity mixed with fleeting brilliance.

Beauden Barrett and man of the match Damian McKenzie were to the fore on the magical attacking front early, combining to allow Waisake Naholo and Kieran Read to cash in. But it didn't last.

The reality is the level of opposition in the Rugby Championship is not what it used to be. When the All Blacks are challenged mentally, as they were against the Boks in Albany, they tend to produce their best.

When they expect to win and achieve dominance too easily, they can be overly flamboyant in their approach.

The All Blacks only needed to click for half an hour to easily put away the Pumas. Four tries in the first 26 minutes put the result beyond doubt and silenced the passionate locals.

After that, their defence scrambled superbly but, again, the attack was not patient or clinical enough, making for frustrating viewing.

Four yellow cards - two to each team - added to the patchy performance.

This was nowhere near the same quality as the 57-0 thrashing of the Springboks in Albany - a performance which set the bar in 2017. But the All Blacks did enough with plenty of improvements to come.

Blown off the park early, the Pumas mounted a second half fightback. The All Blacks repelled several rolling mauls and survived two yellow cards - just as they did in the same fixture last year.

This time the culprits were Matt Todd (a harsh call for pulling down a rolling maul) and captain Read (high shot).

Having led 29-3 at the break, collective execution went backwards fast. The All Blacks scored their only points of the second half in the final play, with a try on debut to Tasman fullback David Havili, who can be proud of his 10 minute cameo.

While the flashy stuff came from Barrett's flick balls and McKenzie's incisions, undoubtedly the most pleasing aspect from the All Blacks was the scrum. They demolished the Pumas pack in this area throughout.

Kane Hames answered critics, with the All Blacks earning penalties at crucial times even while one man down. Luke Romano had some strong carries elsewhere in his best performance in a black jersey but the All Blacks scrum was the star, losing no dominance when they replaced the entire front-row.

Wyatt Crockett's late pressure culminated in Ramiro Herrera copping the Pumas' second yellow.

But while the big boys can be well satisfied, this is a team game.

On the whole, young or old, the All Blacks will always expect much more accuracy.