Written by Max Sharp.
What a thrilling, spirited and cohesive performance, after a year of huge disappointment for the All Blacks. Fresh off an upset loss in Christchurch, Ian Foster's men ran out to perform a strong haka and build towards a half-time lead of 24-3 at FMG Stadium, in Hamilton. With the teamwork continuing into the second half, Los Pumas conceded another 29 points to give the All Blacks their highest winning margin against Los Pumas, since 1997. The final score was 53-3, so let's read through the players from jersey number 1 to 23 and shower this team with some well-deserved praise.
All Blacks Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (10/10)
Played a massive part in the high possession rate of 57% in the first half through ruck presence, while failing to lose any scrums. de Groot ran 8 metres and scored the opening try in his single carry, while making 9/9 tackles. A complete performance from a superstar in the making.
Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (10/10)
His importance for crossing the gainline was massive again, with 40 metres and 1 defender beaten from a high carry count of 12. With 5/7 tackles and 9/9 lineout throws achieved, expect to see the humble hooker earn a third-straight start for the Bledisloe Cup.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (8/10)
With a 61-minute effort, Lomax is on his way to be at the top of the depth chart for his position. A strong game overall, with 11 metres from 7 carries used to get the team some go-forward. 7/8 tackles is respectable, as was his scrummaging. Well done.
Lock 4 - Sam Whitelock (9/10)
Now just 11 caps away from being the All Blacks' record-holder for caps, Whitelock, aged 33, still has the energy of a player in his late 20's! Served well as a jumper for plenty of lineouts, running 14 metres and beating 2 defenders from 7 carries. 5 passes, 10/11 tackles and 1 turnover were the other stats in a true all-round performance.
Lock 5 - Scott Barrett (6/10)
Didn't achieve a lot outside of the basics, but someone has to get in for the dirty work. With 7/9 tackles, Barrett was more focused on the breakdown, with the intent to retain ball. Just 1 metre from 3 carries isn't the highest workrate, but his support of the other forwards was. Moved to blindside when Frizell came off.
Blindside Flanker - Shannon Frizell (7/10)
Almost appeared to function as a third lock and that makes sense, given his height. Ran 20 metres off 4 carries and made 5 tackles before soreness saw him subbed off for Retallick. Jury is still out on if Frizell is the long-term 6.
Openside Flanker - Sam Cane (9/10)
Nit-pickers will red-flag his substitution, but this was indeed Cane's best test in a long time. The team's top tackler, with 13, while running 26 metres, beating 1 defender and making 1 clean break off 8 carries. Even better to see, two of Cane's 6 passes lead straight to a try.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (10/10)
At his destructive, ball-carrying best. The team's second-most tackles with 11, while scoring a try, running 39 metres and beating 3 defenders off 12 carries. A key member of the spine, Savea was there to make 9 passes and 1 offload. The world's very best.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (7/10)
Controlled the team well and looked far more cohesive with Mo'unga, allowing Mo'unga to dictate the tactical kicking, to ensure his own presence at every ruck. Departed after a total of 54 passes, adding another string to his bow of caps.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (8/10)
Slotted all of his kicks at goal to score 14 points, while reverting to the boot many a time under the rain; though it reduced his pass count to just 11. Ran 19 metres and beat 5 defenders off 5 carries and perhaps most tellingly, made 10/10 tackles, the team's third-most, in a match against a massive pack.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (8/10)
Damaged the Pumas' backline severely with ball-in-hand, scoring a try and making 50 metres and beating 3 defenders from 7 carries. Far stronger defence than last week, with 6/7 tackles to go with a proper power winger's attack.
Second-Five - David Havili (7/10)
With just 3 carries allowing Havili to run 16 metres and beat 1 defender, he did well to always put Argentina in two minds. 4/6 tackles could probably have been improved on, though Havili put in some clever kicks and made 5 passes.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (10/10)
Used his jet boots to tear apart the opponents' defence, with a try to go with 92 metres, 4 defenders beaten and 3 clean breaks off 10 carries. Was far more of a hands-on distributor with 7 passes and 3 offloads, while completing 7/8 tackles. Surely the position debate ends?
Right Wing - Will Jordan (6/10)
It was unusual to see Jordan given so few attacking chances after his 2021 season, though his 5 passes, 2 offloads and 6 tackles were good for showing a willingness to participate. We can't be too far away from a try-scoring masterclass now.
Fullback - Jordie Barrett (8/10)
Israel Folau has played a single test in 2022; which surely makes Barrett the safest pair of hands under a high ball? Also ran 50 metres from 9 carries, while doing well in his part as a member of the spine; making 5 passes and 1 offload. Didn't miss a tackle either, so let's not fix what isn't broken.
Reserve Hooker - Dane Coles (7/10)
Coles' 83rd test will possibly be better remembered for his post-match incident with Pablo Matera, though he did well on the pitch, successfully throwing all of his lineouts. Made 7 metres from 3 carries and made a classy offload en route to Savea scoring.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - George Bower (7/10)
Played fewer minutes than last week, but was so much more productive somehow. Ran 7 metres and beat 2 defenders off 2 carries while contributing 6 tackles to the defence. Seems more comfortable with Jason Ryan as his forwards coach?
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (7/10)
His yellow card for collapsing a maul made little difference in favour of Los Pumas, while he carried strongly, with 6 metres off 3 carries. Hard to shift in the breakdown, while contributing 5 tackles and 1 turnover to the defence in a strong performance.
Reserve Lock - Brodie Retallick (7/10)
Didn't add much to the attack around the pitch with just 2 metres from 2 carries, but one of these runs did allow him a try! It was a moment to celebrate for Retallick's home crowd, while he also made 2 passes, 1 offload, 4/4 tackles and 1 turnover in a productive 21 minutes.
Reserve Loose Forward - Dalton Papali'i (No rating)
Made just 1 carry and 5 tackles in 17 minutes, so giving him a rating wouldn't be fair.
Reserve Halfback - Finlay Christie (7/10)
The number 21 came on for Smith with 29 minutes to go, for much-needed minutes. Ran the game plan strongly, with all of his passes coming off well. Made more tackles than Aaron Smith's 2, with 3 of his own.
Reserve First-Five - Beauden Barrett (7/10)
Was reminiscent of his younger self, through his quickly-run cameo. Scored his 41st test try as he nears Doug Howlett's All Blacks record, while running 17 metres off 3 carries. There's nothing better than experienced players coming off the bench!
Reserve Midfielder - Quinn Tupaea (6/10)
Very good going despite coming on with 11 minutes left, running 12 metres off 2 carries. Only got to make 1 pass, but 3 tackles and 1 turnover certainly isn't bad for a back in this time frame.