All Blacks send Pumas packing in Rugby Championship opener
New Zealand step up a gear to run out 39-18 winners in Christchurch
Please click on the link for a selection of photos from the first round of the 2015 Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks ramped up their World Cup preparation on Friday when they made short work of Argentina with a 39-18 victory in their opening Rugby Championship test in Christchurch.
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," said All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
"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.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 started 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 home crowd in 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 line-out with the power of Read in behind.
Ma'a Nonu scored the All Blacks second try on the stroke of half-time and Charles Piutau dotted down immediately after the resumption.
Read scored New Zealand's fourth try when he pounced on a spilled ball inside the Argentina 22 and ran unopposed to the line. Replacement hooker Codie Taylor, on his debut, rounded off the scoring.