All Blacks seal hat-trick of Rugby Championship titles
Captain Richie McCaw equaled a record for All Blacks appearances as the world champions sealed their third successive Rugby Championship title with a 34-13 victory over Argentina in La Plata on Saturday (Sept 27) with one game to spare.
The All Blacks earned a bonus point by scoring four tries through Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Julian Savea and TJ Perenara while Beauden Barrett kicked 14 points.
The win gave the All Blacks an unassailable six-point lead over South Africa with a match to play in the four-nation southern hemisphere tournament.
Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez slotted two first-half penalties for the Pumas, who were unable to breach the tourists’ defence until replacement Horacio Agulla scored a consolation try in the final two minutes.
The Pumas, despite having the majority of possession and territory, committed too many turnovers and were unable to combat the All Blacks’ tactical kicking.
They converted just two penalties through flyhalf Sanchez to go into the break 20-6 down. The second half descended into a tight tussle with the All Blacks camped inside the Pumas’ territory but they were unable to break down a stubborn defence until the 57th minute when winger Savea bumped off three tacklers to score their third try.
All Black's flying winger being tackled. Photo: Reuters
Savea played a part in Perenara’s try, which secured the bonus point and title, when he gave the final pass to the replacement scrumhalf after the All Blacks had swept downfield with flanker Jerome Kaino providing a 50-metre burst.
Agulla scored the home side’s consolation try with less than two minutes remaining to excite the vocal crowd who showered the pitch with seat cushions.
The All Blacks, on 21 points, meet South Africa next week in Johannesburg where McCaw should play his 134th match and surpass Colin Meads to solely own the record for All Blacks appearances.
“It won’t take much (to re-focus for South Africa),” said McCaw, who holds the All Blacks’ tests record with 132.
“When the All Blacks play South Africa, especially in South Africa, that’s one of the games you live for so the boys will enjoy tonight and then look forward to next week.”
“The Pumas came to play and it was a pretty good match to watch because both teams came to play, I’m just proud the guys took their chances.
“We defended really well and didn’t let them across the line until the end and I’m really proud of the guys because it really showed their backbone.”