New Zealand thrashed Argentina 38-0 in a Tri-Nations test in Newcastle on Saturday to gain a measure of revenge for their stunning loss to the Pumas two weeks ago and snap a two-match losing streak.
The All Blacks scored five tries to earn a bonus point and will secure the title if Argentina or Australia do not win the final match of the tournament in Sydney next weekend by a substantial margin.
The victory ended New Zealand’s first losing streak of more than one match since 2011 and Argentina’s fairytale run in the tournament after their first win over the All Blacks was followed by a draw with Australia last week.
The Pumas had not played any test rugby for more than a year before they arrived in Australia but will still be disappointed to be held scoreless in a test match against the All Blacks for the first time.
Hooker Dane Coles scored the first try in the corner in the 12th minute and Richie Mo’unga added a penalty soon afterwards to give the All Blacks a 10-0 halftime lead, but the three-times world champions really opened up after the break.
Ardie Savea bulldozed over the line from an attacking lineout and replacement back Will Jordan scored two tries in three minutes off an Argentine error and an intercept before lock Patrick Tuipulotu blew out the score after the hooter.
The Pumas wore black armbands in memory of soccer great Diego Maradona and New Zealand captain Sam Cane laid the gift of an All Blacks shirt emblazoned with the name of the Argentine star on the turf before the haka.
There was no sentiment from the New Zealanders after kickoff, however, as they went back to basics with setpiece dominance, hard running and judicious kicking to put sustained pressure on the Pumas.
Argentina made 10 changes to the side that drew with Australia last week which may account for a lack of fluency in some of the combinations and a string of handling errors.