Rugby Championship: New Zealand beat Argentina to win title

New Zealand celebrate
New Zealand have won four and drawn one of their five 2014 Rugby Championship matches
New Zealand (20) 34
Tries: B Smith, Dagg, Savea, Perenara Cons: Barrett 4 Pens: Barrett 2
Argentina (6) 13
Try: Agulla Con: Sanchez Pens: Sanchez 2

New Zealand won the Rugby Championship for a third successive year as they beat Argentina 34-13 in La Plata.

Tries from Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Julian Savea and TJ Perenara - plus 14 points from the boot of Beauden Barrett - helped the World Cup holders win the title with a game to spare.

Horacio Agulla scored the home side's only try two minutes from time.

Captain Richie McCaw made his 133rd appearance for the All Blacks, equalling Colin Meads's record.

The 33-year-old flanker said: "They were wonderful conditions to play in and I'm really proud of the way the guys took their opportunities."

South Africa's 28-10 victory over Australia earlier in the day meant New Zealand needed a bonus-point victory to wrap up the title.

2014 Rugby Championship
16 August: Australia 12-12 New Zealand, South Africa 13-6 Argentina13 September: New Zealand 14-10 South Africa, Australia 32-25 Argentina
23 August: New Zealand 51-20 Australia, Argentina 31-33 South Africa27 September: South Africa 28-10 Australia, Argentina 13-34 New Zealand
6 September: New Zealand 28-9 Argentina, Australia 24-23 South Africa4 October: South Africa v New Zealand, Argentina v Australia

And with 12 minutes gone they led 13-0, with Smith crossing after good work by Dagg and Barrett adding the conversion to two early penalties.

Nicolas Sanchez kicked two first-half penalties for the hosts, but they sandwiched another converted All Blacks try, with Dagg going over after linking again with Smith.

Savea shrugged off three opponents to power over just before the hour mark and Perenara secured the bonus-point try after Jerome Kaino's burst.

Argentina's spirit was rewarded with Agulla's late converted try, but the Pumas remain without a win in 20 Tests against the All Blacks.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen: "I'm very pleased with the way we've played throughout the tournament.

"We've had to win many different ways because of the weather and because of the opposition playing as well as they have."

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade: "They played a great game. The simple way they do things is awesome.

"They played the breakdown much better and made a difference there. Also, we could not make the most of our clean breaks."

Argentina: Tuculet; Imhoff, Bosch, Hernandez, Montero; Sanchez, Cubelli; Ayerza, Creevy, Herrera, Galarza, Lavanini, Macome, Lobbe, Senatore.

Replacements: Cortese for Crevy (69), Paz for Ayerza (64), Chaparro, Alemanno for Galarza (62), Baez for Senatore (58), Landajo for Cubelli (53), Iglesias for Hernandez (58), Agulla for Bosch (65), Amorosino (not used).

New Zealand: Dagg, B Smith; C Smith, Fekitoa, Savea; Barrett, A Smith; Crockett, Mealamu, O Franks, Retallick, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw (capt), Read.

Replacements: Harris for Mealamu (71), Moody for Crockett (2), B Franks for O Franks (64), Thrush for Retallick (53), Perenara for A Smith (64), Cane for McCaw (64), Slade for C Smith (71), Jane (not used).