New Zealand have reclaimed the mantle as the world rugby’s No.1 side, but only after a spirited Argentina fought back in a 36-13 Rugby Championship clash in Brisbane.
The All Blacks needed to win by 15 points or more to jump South Africa, who had earlier lost for the second-straight week to Australia to open the door.
And New Zealand were cruising at halftime, up 24-3 despite having three other tries overturned in what looked like more one-way traffic after a 39-0 win over Los Pumas on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
The lead was cut to 16 after 51 minutes though, Emiliano Boffelli converting his own try from the sideline at Suncorp Stadium.
Argentina were then camped deep in All Blacks territory for the next 20 minutes but couldn’t find points.
Eventually Ian Foster’s side, featuring a staggering 11 changes to the starting 15 that beat Argentina last weekend, found a way out and Tupou Vaa’i’s second try gave them the buffer they needed.
It allowed Finlay Christie to breath a sigh of relief, the replacement halfback earlier somehow fumbling over the line to spoil a certain try after he had charged down an Argentina kick.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” captain Ardie Savea said of the side returning to world No.1.
“We knew they’d be tough today, but I’m proud of the boys tonight and as the week went this week you didn’t really notice all the changes.
“Spending quarantine together has really tightened the group and … we expect them to come out and perform.”
Patrick Tuipulotu scored the game’s first try before TJ Perenara darted over and Vaa’i crossed just before the break for New Zealand.
Untried at Test level in the No.10 jersey, Argentina’s Santiago Carreras was classy as his side won the second half to take some momentum into next week’s date with the Wallabies.
The All Blacks (20 points) are flying high atop the Rugby Championship standings with four bonus-point wins from four games and will face South Africa for the 100th time when the tournament heads to Townsville on Saturday.
The Springboks (10 points) and Wallabies (nine) are now level on two wins each while the Pumas have been beaten twice by South Africa and the All Blacks.