New Zealand routed Argentina 54-15 to secure the southern hemisphere’s inaugural Rugby Championship with a game to spare as South Africa beat Australia 31-8 for its second win in the tournament.
The world champion All Blacks outscored the Pumas by seven tries to two last night in La Plata, all coming through the backs. Cory Jane touched down three times, fellow winger Julian Savea went over twice, with scrum-half Aaron Smith and inside center Ma’a Nonu adding the others.
New Zealand tops the standings with 21 points after five straight victories and has an unbeatable nine-point lead over second-place South Africa heading into the final round on Oct. 6, when the All Blacks meet the Springboks in Soweto.
“I don’t think too many teams have gone unbeaten previously,” All Blacks No. 8 Kieran Read said in a televised interview. “If we could win the inaugural championship and do that next week it would be a massive effort from us.”
New Zealand’s high-tempo game clicked last night even as the visiting team had 47 percent of the possession and spent about two-thirds of the match in its own half. The 39-point winning margin was the All Blacks’ biggest victory in Argentina and gave them a 15th straight Test triumph.
In front of a sellout crowd of 53,000 at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, tournament newcomer Argentina took the lead with a seventh-minute try by scrum-half Martin Landajo.
Smith replied nine minutes later and the All Blacks added another three tries before the break as Read put Jane into space on left wing, Savea scored off a kick-and-chase and then finished off a flowing move.
The Pumas got the first try of the second half when Gonzalo Camacho came off his wing and slipped between two tacklers off a ruck. Savea set up Jane’s second in the 51st minute with a flicked pass and Nonu raced away to score after All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made four substitutions.
Jane completed his hat trick in the final minute after fending off his tackler three times. Replacement fly-half Aaron Cruden, who also converted Nonu’s try and kicked a penalty, added the extra points to close the scoring. Starting No. 10 Dan Carter also kicked three conversions and two penalties.
“We were a bit jittery in the first five, ten minutes,” Hansen said in a televised interview. “Once we controlled our composure we came straight back into the game and took control of it.”
Habana Hat Trick
In Pretoria, winger Bryan Habana scored three of South Africa’s five tries against Australia, which was forced to play the last eight minutes with 14 men because of injuries. Full- back Zane Kirchner and flanker Francois Louw also touched down as the Springboks ended their record run of five straight losses to the Wallabies.
“Today was about execution,” Habana said in a televised interview. “Everyone was switched on. We will have to be up for the All Blacks next weekend.”
Scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who took over kicking duties after rookie fly-half Johan Goosen missed two early shots at goal, added three conversions for South Africa. Mike Harris scored a try and Kurtley Beale kicked a penalty for Australia.
Converted tries from Kirchner and Habana put South Africa ahead before Beale’s kick made it 14-3 at halftime.
Wallabies prop James Slipper was sin-binned in the 53rd minute and Louw went over moments later. Habana added his second try on the hour, with Pienaar converting to increase the home team’s lead to 26-3.
Harris, one of seven replacements used by Australia, went over in the corner in the 65th minute to make it 26-8. Habana then sealed his hat trick, extending his South African try- scoring record to 46, with two minutes remaining.
Backs Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane, and forwards Radike Samo and Tatafu Polota Nau, all failed to complete the game for the Wallabies because of injuries.
Australia, which has eight points in third place, faces last-place Argentina in the final round.
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