Julian Savea of the All Blacks dives over for his second try. Photo: Getty Images
LA PLATA, Argentina: The All Blacks have wrapped up the inaugural Rugby Championship in style, producing their best performance of the tournament with a 54-15 thumping of Argentina.
Despite a feverish opening quarter-hour by the Pumas, New Zealand showed all their muscle, guile and class to rack up seven tries to two.
Richie McCaw's men officially claimed the four-nation tournament by halftime with a four-try first-half rout at a jam-packed Stadia Ciudad de La Plata.
The attacking bonus point meant they couldn't be overhauled by second-placed South Africa, who thumped Australia 31-8 earlier on Sunday morning (AEST) in Pretoria, even with next week's last round clash to come in Johannesburg.
The All Blacks went on with the job after the break with winger Cory Jane capitalising on their dominance with a hat-trick as they celebrated a 15th straight Test victory dating back to last year's World Cup.
While they had comfortably won all four previous matches in the expanded and rebranded tournament, the world champions did not cross more than twice in any of them.
But they delivered on skipper McCaw's call for a top-shelf performance and broke the shackles in front of a shellshocked 53,000-strong Argentine crowd.
It was a far cry from the first 15 minutes when the locals were cock-a-hoop at leading 5-0 and winning the early collisions. Halfback Martin Landajo opened the scoring by finishing a well-worked first-phase backline move off that saw fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino burst through on halfway. But Argentina's defence fell to pieces once Ma'a Nonu scooped from a vacant ruck area and expertly put halfback Aaron Smith over in the 17th minute.
It started a four-try blitz as No.8 Kieran Read strolled through to set up Jane in the corner, Savea punished rival Gonzalo Camacho for a spilt ball out wide, and then followed up for his second on the stroke of halftime in the very same corner for a 32-8 lead.
Although Camacho shrugged off Andrew Hore to score after the break, the All Blacks snuffed out any hint of a comeback as Savea manhandled two defenders for Jane's second.
In his comeback from a calf injury, Dan Carter showed his class and kicked five from seven for 12 first-half points but was rested midway through the second.
There was no let up for the home side as replacement Aaron Cruden broke the line with his first touch and set up Nonu for an easy try.
Jane put the icing on the cake with a 50m intercept on fulltime for his hat-trick.
NEW ZEALAND 54 (Cory Jane 3, Julian Savea 2, Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Smith tries Daniel Carter 3, Aaron Cruden 2 cons Carter 2, Cruden pens) bt ARGENTINA 15 (Gonzalo Camacho, Martin Landajo tries Juan Martin Hernandez con pen) at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata. Referee: Jaco Peyper.