All Blacks show depth in title-clincher over Pumas

BUENOS AIRES • New Zealand's 35-17 win over Argentina on Saturday sealed not only a third consecutive Rugby Championship - and a sixth in seven years - but also gave the world another ominous reminder of their strength in depth a year from the next World Cup.

The world champions were missing several regulars, particularly in the pack, with Joe Moody, Owen Franks and captain Kieran Read among those absent and Luke Whitelock (illness) replaced by Ardie Savea shortly before kick-off.

It made little difference as the visiting All Blacks recovered from a shaky first five minutes to dominate a team who have still to record a win against them in 28 games.

"We got better game management," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. "I don't know if we're the finished product yet. They are a young team that were out there for large parts of tonight so it was pretty pleasing."

Backrow Savea was one of the best performers in just his second start and Ofa Tu'ungafasi also stepped up to excel in his first start at prop.

Another back, Karl Tu'inukuafe, was perhaps New Zealand's best player on the night, further underlining their strength in depth.

The All Blacks, who bounced back from the defeat by South Africa two weeks ago to avoid a second consecutive loss for the first time since 2011, have been particularly clinical in the scrum in this Rugby Championship.

They won all their nine scrums against Argentina to take their total in the five games so far to 31 won and none lost.

They are the only team in the tournament with a 100 per cent record in the department, and assistant coach Ian Foster was pleased to maintain their supremacy against a team known for their scrummaging ability.

It all bodes well for the three-time world champions as they build up towards next year's World Cup in Japan.

New Zealand are in Pool B alongside Italy, South Africa, Namibia and the winner of a play-off.

Before that, the All Blacks will round out their Rugby Championship duties next week against South Africa in Pretoria.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2018, with the headline 'All Blacks show depth in title-clincher over Pumas'. Print Edition | Subscribe