Argentina couldn't keep pace with New Zealand on Sunday as the Rugby Championship leaders powered to a 39-0 win over the Pumas on Sunday.
The two teams met on neutral soil as the remainder of the tournament will be played in Queensland, but one would have thought the All Blacks were at home after such a confident display.
Luke Jacobson scored twice as New Zealand rarely looked flustered against their South American opponents, who failed to score for the second time in as many meetings with the All Blacks.
Rieko Ioane wasn’t in the original line-up to face the Pumas, but a late injury to centre Anton Lienert-Brown meant the Blues star was promoted back into the starting XV.
And it didn’t take the speedster long to prove why he was the sensible option, withstanding an early barrage of Argentinian pressure to cross over for the game’s opening try inside 10 minutes.
Referee Nic Berry required assistance from the television match official to ensure there was no knock-on in the build-up, with the ball coming off a Pumas hand before Ioane dotted down.
It proved be the first of many positive contributions from the younger Ioane, who impressed among the backs while brother Akira sought to make an impact in the forwards.
That latter battlefield was one where Argentina had some fortune and asserted dominance at the breakdown, turning over numerous possessions when the All Blacks were threatening.
But the Pumas played a huge majority of the first period in their own territory, and while they succeeded in keeping the scoreline down, they failed to do much threatening of their own.
Recalled fly-half Nicolas Sanchez had one shot at goal from 50 metres or so so out, but the kick fell short and wide as the underdogs endeavoured to find some foothold in the match.
Argentina’s star playmaker was forced off the field towards the end of the half after suffering a cut above the eye, temporarily replaced by Emiliano Boffelliin the No. 10 role.
Like scorer Ioane, full-back Jordie Barrett was another who may not have been in Sunday’s lineup after he received a red card in last week’s 38-21 win over Australia, which was later overturned.
And brother Beauden looked eager to put his sibling in for a first-half score with several chips over and through the defence, just over-cooking his kicks on both occasions.
New Zealand’s No. 10 put them in double digits with a penalty on 34 minutes, though he failed to apply the extras after Sevu Reece bundled over from short range for their second try of the day.
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Head coach Ian Foster said after last week’s win over the Wallabies that he’s content with Barrett kicking badly as long as his overall play is impressive, which was again the case early on Sunday.
The All Blacks made the decision to persist in their play despite hearing the half-time hooter blow at Cbus Super Stadium, which proved the right call as they turned the screw on the ‘visitors’.
Not only did flanker Dalton Papalii barge over for his third try in five Test appearances, but Argentina enforcer Pablo Matera was shown a yellow for slowing the ball at the ruck.
A 22-0 deficit was crushing for Mario Ledesma’s 14 men coming out for the second half, especially considering that gap was only seven points at the 33-minute mark.
And the All Blacks kept alive their tradition of improving as matters wore on, with Beauden Barrett proving pivotal in the build-up following his superb offload to scorer Luke Jacobson.
Ioane and George Bridge helped drive the ball before Barrett exploded through midfield, flying a no-look pass out the back door for Jacobson to cruise over unopposed.
That would prove Barrett’s last major contribution as New Zealand made four changes at the 50-minute mark, with Damian McKenzie replacing his compatriot at fly-half.
Quinn Tupaea also came on for centre David Havili to earn his second cap, while Joe Moody and Tyrel Lomax replaced props Nepo Laulala and Karl Tu’inukuafe.
The Pumas rung the changes themselves and were forced to permanently replace Sanchez, who scored all 25 of their points when they beat the All Blacks for the first time last November.
The quality of the benches played a big part, too, as Argentina failed to keep the discipline that saw them boss the breakdown early on and started to concede a succession of penalties.
That pressure culminated in a second yellow card courtesy of replacement prop Carlos Muzzio, and Jacobson soon cruised over for his second of the day off the base of a short-range scrum.
Argentina seldom threatened with 15 men on the field and were muted all the more a man down as a Jordie Barrett penalty put the All Blacks 39-0 up.
That scoreline eclipsed their 38-0 in this fixture last November, following up their first bagel victory over the Pumas with a second in succession on Sunday.
New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick will also celebrate this result as a successful first Test as captain, having replaced Ardie Savea in the armband after the latter suffered a head injury last time out.
The Chiefs second row may hope to remain in the leadership role when these teams clash again at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday in the fourth round of the Rugby Championship.
Another bonus-point win for New Zealand means South Africa cannot reclaim top spot regardless of their result against Australia later on Sunday.
The Springboks face back-to-back meetings against the Wallabies before concluding their tournament against New Zealand, with their next meeting on September 25 set to be their centenary.
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