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New Zealand claims inaugural Rugby Championship crown

New Zealand All Blacks' Aaron Smith dives to score a try during their Rugby Championship match against Argentina Los Pumas in La Plata September 29, 2012.

MARCOS BRINDICCI/REUTERS

New Zealand ran in seven tries to crush Argentina 54-15 Saturday and win the inaugural Rugby Championship title with a game to spare.

The clinical and merciless world champions recovered from conceding an early try to score four and build a 32-8 half-time advantage before a capacity 53,000 crowd at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata.

Argentina also started the second half well and scored another try only for the men in black to once again wrest control and right wing Cory Jane completed the rout in the final minute with his third touchdown.

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Fellow wing Julian Savea crossed the line twice and scrum-half Aaron Smith and centre Ma'a Nonu once each with the rest of the points coming from the boots of fit-again Dan Carter and the man who replaced him at fly-half, Aaron Cruden.

Carter, who missed the last two rounds of the southern hemisphere championship due to a calf injury, slotted three conversions and two penalties and Cruden two conversions and a penalty.

Scrum-half Martin Landajo, who had an outstanding game, and right wing Gonzalo Camacho scored a try each for Argentina and fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez kicked one conversion and one penalty.

"We had a plan and stuck to it, taking every opportunity that came our way," said New Zealand captain and flank Richie McCaw after the most one-sided of 10 Championship matches.

"Patience was a key factor in our success tonight as we often went through one or two extra phases to create openings. We also forced the Pumas into a lot of errors."

Disconsolate Argentina No 8 and skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said: "We learnt some hard lessons out there against opponents who played really, really well.

"We tried everything but could not stop them so now we must turn our attention to the match against Australia next weekend and try and finish our campaign on a high note."

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It was a sad night for the Pumas, who entered the game hoping to test the All Blacks after holding South Africa in Mendoza, matching the All Blacks for 60 minutes in Wellington and nearly defeating Australia on the Gold Coast.

They failed in Australasia because they could not last the pace, but that was irrelevant in this city south of Buenos Aires as the All Blacks gave their finest performance of the Championship to record a fifth consecutive victory.

Winning with a bonus point lifted New Zealand to 21 points followed by South Africa (12), Australia (eight) and Argentina (three) with the final fixtures scheduled for next weekend.

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