A Cory Jane hat-trick led New Zealand to a dominant 54-15 victory over Argentina on Saturday to secure the Rugby Championship title for the world champions.
Julian Savea added two tries as the All Blacks overpowered Argentina, who have yet to win in five matches in the new four-nation championship. The victory gave the defending World Cup champions an unassailable nine-point lead atop the standings with one round of matches to go in the tournament.
It was the 15th-straight victory for the All Blacks, who have also won 15 of 16 matches against Argentina. The other match was a draw. It was also their most lopsided victory against Argentina, larger than a 36-6 victory in 1991.
New Zealand fell behind 5-0 on an 8th-minute try by Martin Landajo, delighting the 45,000 sell-out crowd in the coastal city of La Plata.
It didn’t last, as the world champion All Blacks showed their class in tearing apart Argentina’s defence at will.
“It’s a hell of a place to play here and we probably gave them a bit of a start there – conceding the first try – but we showed composure,” captain Richie McCaw said.
“It’s easy to get caught up in (the atmosphere) and go a bit quiet. But the boys stuck to it and every opportunity pretty much we got tonight we took.”
New Zealand grabbed the lead – for good – in the 16th on Aaron Smith’s try and Dan Carter’s conversion. It was never close after that.
“We were excited (about scoring the first try) but we met a really good team today and I think today we made more mistakes than usual, and every time we did a mistake they made it seven points,” Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said.
“So it was very tough, but there are lessons to be learned.”
Argentina close out the championship next week against Australia in Rosario, Argentina. New Zealand finished with South Africa.
“We set out to win the championship from day one, and to be able to do it so early is a reflection on how well the boys have worked and how well they’ve played,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said.
He said he was not surprised Argentina scored first.
“I think that’s what you’re going to get sometimes in an atmosphere like this,” he said. “We were a bit jittery, particularly in the first five or 10 minutes.”
It was a disappointing match for the Pumas, who have otherwise been impressive in their first appearance in the premier southern hemisphere tournament.
“There is still a big difference between us and them,” Argentina coach Santiago Phelan said.
“They play with intensity and precision, something we lack.”
As soon as New Zealand took the lead, they began to build on it with slick ball handling and better speed than the Pumas.
Carter stretched the lead to 10-5 from a 20th minute penalty as New Zealand began to control possession and pin the Pumas back in their own half. Jane added a 23rd-minute try with Carter adding the conversion to stretch the lead to 17-5.
Juan Martin Hernandez kept Argentina in touch with a 27th-minute penalty, narrowing the lead to 17-8, but Carter restored the 12-point lead with a penalty two minutes later to make it 20-8.
New Zealand scored on another counterattack in the 31st, this time with Savea chasing down a loose ball deep in Argentina’s half and pouncing on it for the try to make it 25-8. Savea scored his second try, and New Zealand’s fourth, a minute before half-time to increase the lead to 32-8 following Carter’s conversion.
Argentina’s Gonzalo Camacho opened the second half with a try to cut the lead to 32-15, before Jane responded in the 51st to push New Zealand ahead 37-15. Ma’a Nonu added another try in the 60th with the lead growing to 44-15 and Aaron Cruden added a penalty in the 66th to make it 47-15.
Jane added his third try in the final minute with Cruden adding the conversion to complete the rout.