The All Blacks reign supreme in the Rugby Championship yet again, wrapping up the title with a match to spare by beating Argentina 34-13. stuff.co.nz
Polished performance in La Plata
By Roger Childs
The All Blacks have secured the Four Nations trophy with a bonus point win against Argentina. It was a classy performance on the hard and fast ground, and the backs, who scored all four tries, produced plenty of magic. The local team contributed to an entertaining match and were rewarded with a very good try late in the second half. The All Blacks now go on to Ellis Park with the competition won, but keen to keep their unbeaten record.
Backline in great form
Aaron Cruden’s failure to make the plane to South America was Beauden Barrett’s opportunity. As the run-on first five, he made up for his Napier kicking lapses by converting all four tries and landing two penalties. Barrett also distributed the ball well, tackled like a demon and gained very good distance with his line kicks.
All the backs played well and there were some superb interchanges in the first half between a rejuvenated Israel Dagg and right winger Ben Smith, which saw each of them score tries. Aaron Smith was his usual lively self at half back and provided speedy service from rucks and scrums.
However the standout backs were Malakai Fekitoa and Julian Savea. The new second five was always dangerous on attack, making plenty of half breaks and proving hard to pull down. He also showed good judgement with his passing and tackled ferociously. Only an uncharacteristic fumble, after a brilliant break by McCaw, denied him a try early in the second spell.
Julian Savea was always a handful for the Pumas and made many bullocking runs. His try in the second spell saw him bump off three players before dotting down. He now has 27 tries from 27 test appearances.
A solid platform in the forwards
The All Blacks scrummed well and hooker Keven Mealamu and new prop Joe Moody were standouts in the front row. Returning from injury, Sam Whitelock toiled in the tight and showed his fitness in lasting the whole game.
The loose trio were in fine form. Richie McCaw led from the front and and along with Jerome Kaino and Keiran Read secured plenty of turnovers. All three made some excellent individual breaks in the open and tackled with plenty of venom.
The lineout worked well and the ability of the forwards to deliver a stream of quick ball meant that the backline had room to move. There was also plenty of effective inter-passing amongst the forwards and knock-ons were few.
Making a big contribution to the spectacle
The Pumas toiled hard all match, but gave up twenty turnovers. Nevertheless they made a number of clean breaks and were very close to scoring late in the first spell. They were keen to attack at every opportunity and had the better of the last few minutes with some determined running and very effective off-loads and short passing. Unfortunately throughout the match there were just too many mistakes and they often rushed their passes and knocked the ball on.
Nonetheless they remained competitive throughout and gave the fans a big thrill at the end with a fine backline try. The excited reaction in the stands saw the fans off their feet cheering in delight and throwing hundreds of blue seat covers in the air!
Continuing the fine record
It was a convincing display from the All Blacks who extended their unbeaten run to 22 games. Last year in the final test against South Africa the All Backs needed one point to secure the Four Nations trophy. The result was one of the greatest tests ever.
This time the trophy is safely in the cabinet, however the All Blacks will be keen to maintain their unbeaten record.