x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

New Zealand win in Argentina to lift inaugural Rugby Championship

All Blacks win first Rugby Championship with stunning win against the Pumas.

Winger Cory James scored three of New Zealand's seven tries as the world champion All Blacks beat Argentina 54-15 to lift the inaugural Rugby Championship title on Saturday.

The other New Zealand winger, Julian Savea, also scored two tries in an open match in which the Pumas also crossed the All Blacks line twice, most notably with scrumhalf Martin Landajo's opening try of the match.

A noisy 45,000 full house at the Etadio Unico were treated to some exciting, if often error-riddled, running from both back lines with the All Blacks enjoying a clear edge when it came to finishing.

New Zealand took their winning run to 15 since last year's World Cup and travel to Johannesburg for their final match of the tournament next weekend against South Africa, who beat Australia 31-8 earlier on Saturday.

It was a return to regional dominance for the All Blacks, who won 10 of the 16 Tri-Nations titles but lost out to the Wallabies in last year's final version of the competition before it was replaced to allow the addition of the Pumas.

"We wanted to win the championship from day one and to do it so early is a reflection of how hard the boys have worked and how well they've played," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said in a pitchside interview.

Argentina, whose former prop Omar Hasan - now an opera singer - sung both anthems, showed their intent to run the ball at every opportunity and went ahead within nine minutes.

The Pumas won a lineout on the left inside their own half, the ball was passed inside to fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorisino, who rode two tackles and set off on a diagonal run towards the right.

He was tackled inside the New Zealand 22 but laid off to Landajo, who darted between two players to touch down. Flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez missed the conversion.

New Zealand hit back eight minutes later with the first try conceded by the Pumas in the first half of their championship matches.

Centre Ma'a Nonu broke through the defence at a ruck in the middle and raced for the posts before passing out of the tackle to scrumhalf Aaron Smith, who touched down.

Carter converted to put the All Blacks ahead and then put over a penalty for a 10-5 lead at the halfway point of the first half.

The All Blacks then scored a second try through Jane in the left corner after a break by number eight Kieran Read, with Carter again converting.

Flyhalf Hernandez and Carter exchanged penalties before a brief tale of two interceptions.

First the Pumas snapped up a loose ball and moved play out right where wing Gonzalo Camacho dropped the ball to allow Savea to kick ahead, chase and touched down.

Savea scored his second try in the corner as the half was winding down after several phases of All Blacks attacks and, with Carter's conversion, New Zealand went in at halftime 32-8 ahead.

Argentina pinned New Zealand back into their half from the restart and after several phases of attack won a penalty. They chose to run and were rewarded when Camacho picked up from a ruck and scurried over to score their second try.

Again, New Zealand hit right back with Jane's second try at the end of a move that began on the far side after a lineout.

A lot more running of the ball by both teams, amid a myriad of replacements in the final quarter, failed to deliver another try for the home side but Nonu crossed and Jane secured his hat-trick for New Zealand.

In the tournaments other match Bryan Habana scored a hat-trick of tries to lead South Africa to an impressive 31-8 victory over Australia in Pretoria.

Habana, South Africa's record tryscorer, touched down in the 28th, 60th and 78th minutes while Zane Kirchner and Francois Louw also crossed as the Springboks maintained their 100 per cent record against Australia at Loftus Versfeld with a sixth win out of six.

The remainder of the home side's points came from the boot of scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who converted three of the five tries, as South Africa earned a second victory in five matches to lift them into second place onto 12 points.

They are four points behind unbeaten leaders New Zealand ahead of the All Blacks' clash in Argentina.

Australia, whose points today came from an unconverted second-half try from Mike Harris and a Kurtley Beale penalty, are third in the standings on eight points after slumping to their third loss.

The Wallabies were badly hit by injuries, though, and used all seven substitutes during the match before playing the final nine minutes with just 14 men.