Rugby Championship: New Zealand sweep past Argentina

New Zealand (13) 28

Tries: Savea (2), Messam, Smith

Cons: Slade

Pens: Slade, Barrett

Argentina (6) 9

Pens: Sanchez (3)

Julian Savea scored two tries as New Zealand beat Argentina 28-9 in their Rugby Championship clash at Napier's McLean Park.

The winger crossed in each half to make it 26 tries in 25 Test appearances.

In between, flanker Liam Messam's effort just before half-time gave the All Blacks a 13-6 advantage at the break.

Aaron Smith also went over to put the winners top of the table, although they struggled with their kicking game.

Argentina had come into the game full of confidence after troubling the South African forwards twice in recent weeks, although just failing to win.

2014 Rugby Championship

16 August: Australia 12-12 New Zealand, South Africa 13-6 Argentina

13 September: New Zealand v South Africa, Australia v Argentina

23 August: New Zealand 51-20 Australia, Argentina 31-33 South Africa

27 September: South Africa v Australia, Argentina v New Zealand

6 September: New Zealand 28-9 Argentina, Australia v South Africa

4 October: South Africa v New Zealand, Argentina v Australia

But the All Blacks pack was equal to the challenge and not even the early loss of senior lock Sam Whitelock to injury could upset their momentum.

The defending champions took their chances to run when they could and then turn Argentina with short kicks in behind their backline.

Savea's first came after a move involving two grubber kicks and he capitalised to score out wide before an Argentina error at the scrum allowed Beuden Barrett, playing his first game at fly-half, to go through a gap and send Messam away for the score.

Barrett was back in the action at the start of the second half when he drew Sanchez to put Savea in for his second try but he struggled with his kicking, missing three conversions and a penalty and was replaced by Colin Slade midway through the second half.

Slade was immediately on the board as he and Sanchez traded penalties, and he then converted Smith's try as the scrum-half scored off the back of a solid scrum.

The All Blacks face South Africa next weekend in a top-of-the-table clash that could decide the outcome of the series.

New Zealand: Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, Nonu, Savea; Barrett, A Smith; Crockett, Coles, Franks; Retallick, Whitelock, Messam; McCaw (capt), Read. Replacements: Mealamu, Franks, Moody, Thrush, Cane, Perenara, Slade, Fekitoa.

Argentina: Tuculet; Agulla, Bosch, Martin Hernandez, Amorosino; Sanchez, Landajo; Ayerza, Creevy, Herrera; Galarza, Lavanini; Fernandez Lobbe, Leguizamon, Senatore. Replacements: Cortese, Noguera Paz, Chaparro, Alemanno, Baez, Cubelli, Gonzalez Iglesias, Imhoff.