Rugby Championship: New Zealand clinch bonus-point win
Last Updated: September 29, 2013 11:12am
A late try from Ben Smith secured a vital bonus point as New Zealand moved a step closer to clinching the Rugby Championship with a 33-15 victory over Argentina.
The All Blacks, who had started the game in La Plata level on points with South Africa, who had comfortably beaten Australia 28-8 earlier on Saturday, only led the Pumas by two points at the break.
They then found themselves trailing at the start of the second half before two tries in the space of five minutes gave them a comfortable cushion.
Smith scored one of them, then crossed again in the dying moments to leave New Zealand only needing to avoid a bonus-point defeat at the hands of the Springboks in Johannesburg next week to claim the trophy.
Argentina certainly made their opponents work for the win, a pair of Nicolas Sanchez penalties at one stage putting them 6-3 ahead.
The lead could have been even greater, too, had Marcelo Bosch not made a mess of a penalty from inside his own half and Sanchez found the target with a drop-goal attempt.
A further three points went begging in the 20th minute when Sanchez pulled a penalty wide, and the hosts paid the price for their missed opportunities soon after.
Julian Savea picked up a loose ball in midfield and sprinted down the left to cross for the game's first try - confirmed after lengthy deliberation by the video official about a potential offside.
Aaron Cruden missed the conversion, even after been allowed to take it a second time when he was distracted by a laser from the crowd, but did land a second penalty to make it 11-6.
Sanchez cut the deficit to two and Argentina moved ahead again straight after the break when Bosch slotted over from halfway.
Cruden responded immediately and then the All Blacks hit their opponents with a quick-fire double, Sam Crane going over in the corner before Smith grabbed his first of the night.
With one of the two conversions going over New Zealand led 26-12 all of a sudden. Sanchez kicked a penalty to stop the rot for Argentina, but they simply had too much ground to make up.
After seeing Savea, chasing a kick from Conrad Smith, fumble the ball yards from the line, Ben Smith made no mistake in the closing seconds when he forced his way over.