All Blacks demolish Pumas to clinch Championship title

Argentina's Los Pumas wing Juan Imhoff is tackled by New Zealand's All Blacks scrum half Aaron Smith (R) and centre Ma'a Nonu, during their Rugby Championship fifth round match. New Zealand won 54-15. (Juan Mabromata, AFP)

Argentina's Los Pumas wing Juan Imhoff is tackled by New Zealand's All Blacks scrum half Aaron Smith (R) and centre Ma'a Nonu, during their Rugby Championship fifth round match. New Zealand won 54-15. (Juan Mabromata, AFP)

The clinical and merciless world champions recovered from conceding an early try to score four and build a 32-8 half-time advantage before a capacity 53 000 crowd at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata.

Argentina also started the second half well and scored another try only for the men in black to once more wrest control and right wing Cory Jane completed the rout in the final minute with his third touchdown.

Fellow wing Julian Savea crossed the line twice and scrum-half Aaron Smith and centre Ma'a Nonu once each with the rest of the points coming from the boots of fit-again Dan Carter and the man who replaced him at fly-half, Aaron Cruden.

Carter, who missed the last two rounds of the southern hemisphere championship due to a calf injury, slotted three conversions and two penalties and Cruden two conversions and a penalty.

Outstanding scrum-half Martin Landajo, who made a series of sniping runs, and right wing Gonzalo Camacho scored a try each for Argentina and fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez kicked one conversion and one penalty.

"We had a plan and stuck to it, taking every opportunity that came our way," said New Zealand captain and flank Richie McCaw after the most one-sided of 10 Championship matches.

"Patience was a key factor in our success tonight as we often went through one or two extra phases to create openings. We also forced the Pumas into a lot of errors."

Disconsolate Argentina No 8 and skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said: "We learnt some hard lessons out there against opponents who played really, really well.

"We tried everything but could not stop them so now we must turn our attention to the match against Australia next weekend and try and finish our campaign on a high note."

Fifth consecutive win
It was a sad night for the Pumas, who entered the game hoping to test the All Blacks after holding South Africa in Mendoza, matching the All Blacks for 60-minutes in Wellington and nearly defeating Australia on the Gold Coast.

They failed in Australasia because they could not last the pace, but that was irrelevant in this city south of Buenos Aires as the All Blacks gave their finest performance of the Championship to record a fifth consecutive victory.

Winning with a bonus point lifted New Zealand to 21-points followed by South Africa (12), Australia (eight) and Argentina (three) with the final fixtures scheduled for next weekend.

The Springboks, boosted by a 31-8 victory over Australia in Pretoria earlier Saturday, square up against the All Blacks at Soccer City stadium in Soweto and Argentina confront Australia in Rosario.

Landajo got Argentina off to a dream start with a try on eight minutes, crossing halfway out after a brilliant break by full-back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino carved a hole in the New Zealand defence.

But the visitors hit back eight minutes later when Nonu exposed poor defending by bursting through the middle and sending Smith over between the posts for a try Carter converted to give the All Blacks a lead they never surrendered.

Carter kicked a penalty and converted a try by Jane, who scored after a superb one-hand off-load from No 8 Kieran Read, before Hernandez landed a penalty to raise hopes of a Pumas revival as the deficit was trimmed to nine points.

But Savea went over twice before the break and although Carter lost his goal kicking touch, with three misses out of eight, it did not matter as the All Blacks scored as many tries in La Plata as they did in the previous four Tests. – Sapa-AFP.

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