The All Blacks ramped up their World Cup preparation Friday when they made short work of Argentina with a 39-18 victory in their opening Rugby Championship Test in Christchurch on Friday.
Although still short of their championship best, the All Blacks five tries to two domination was a marked improvement on their ragged warm-up outing against Samoa last week.
Argentina struggled for much of the game as the All Blacks forwards took the highly touted Pumas pack apart, the backs for the most part held their passes and the defence was rock solid.
“We moved a step forward and from the forwards’ point of view we knew it was going to be a good challenge there and for the most part we got that right,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said.
“One of the pleasing things was we didn’t let them, especially around the fringes, let their big boys make too many inroads.
“Bar the couple of drives when they scored I think we looked after them pretty well.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen declared himself “very, very happy” particularly with the improvement shown by Kieran Read and Israel Dagg.
The second Test of the All Blacks limited five-Test programme before the squad is slashed from 41 to 31 for the World Cup was played in fine but bitterly cold conditions with the temperature hovering around freezing point.
But there was nothing frigid about the All Blacks as fly-half Dan Carter produced all the tricks in his playbook, while Sonny Bill Williams had his trademark offloads and led the defensive line.
Argentina played their part in making the rare Friday night Test an entertaining affair with a willingness to run the ball, but their attacks were starting too deep and were easily read by the All Blacks.
When they reverted to the play they know best, keeping it tight, they enjoyed a 10 minute period of domination in the second half when captain and hooker Agustin Creevy scored twice from forward drives.
That closed the gap to 32-18 and reignited the All Blacks who played the remaining 20 minutes deep in Argentina territory, scoring a late try when they demolished an Argentine scrum.
It was a special night for two of the most celebrated All Blacks, McCaw and Carter, making their farewell appearance before their provincial home crowd Christchurch.
Carter signed off with 14 points from two penalties and four conversions while McCaw scored the opening try, driving around the front of a five-metre lineout with the power of Read in behind.
Ma’a Nonu scored the All Blacks second try on the stroke of halftime when he barged his way through four defenders to score in the corner and Charles Piutau dotted down immediately after the resumption.
Read, who was allowed to rampage freely, scored the All Blacks fourth try when he pounced on spilled ball inside the Argentine 22 and ran unopposed to the line.
Replacement hooker Codie Taylor, on debut, rounded off the scoring.
The Pumas remain winless on the road in the RugbyChampionship with their only success from 19 matches being a win over Australia at home last year while they also drew against South Africa in 2012.
In just over nine weeks they meet the All Blacks again in their opening World Cup encounter. – Agence France-Presse