HAMILTON, New Zealand -- Scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored two tries within three minutes in the first half to set New Zealand on course to a 28-13 win over Argentina in a Rugby Championship match on Saturday, maintaining the All Blacks' unbeaten start to the four-nation tournament.
Argentina, who have yet to beat New Zealand in 17 meetings, rocked the All Blacks with an early converted try to backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamon and led 7-0 after five minutes. But Smith's double in the 23rd and 26th minutes - when Argentina was reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of hooker Eusebio Guinazu - turned the tide of the match and set up New Zealand's third straight Championship win.
The All Blacks took a 15-10 lead to halftime, helped by a conversion and penalty to flyhalf Dan Carter who became the first player to surpass 1,400 points in tests.
Argentina placed some pressure on the All Blacks early with accurate kicking and strong chasing which exploited wet and slippery conditions. New Zealand's effort was undermined by eight handling errors in the first half while the Pumas battled a dysfunctional lineout and gave the All Blacks' chances with 16 missed tackles.
Errors mounted in a second half which was played in driving rain that made backplay risky. New Zealand continued to play with ambition and clinched the match in the 54th minute with an outstanding try to winger Julian Savea -- his 14th in as many test matches -- which gave it a 25-13 lead.
Carter converted the try -- his fourth goal from seven attempts -- to take his tally for the match to 10 points and for his career to 1,409 before being replaced after 54 minutes by Beauden Barrett.
Bordeaux flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez kept Argentina in touch by kicking a conversion and two penalties, missing one further penalty which struck the crossbar from long range.
"We wanted to be positive and sometimes the conditions don't really allow that," said Kieran Read who ended the match as All Blacks' captain.
"Argentina is a team that is on the up. You saw last week and this week they're right in the competition and it won't be long until they get their first win. I'm glad it's not tonight but we stuck at it and that's the main thing we can do."
While the Pumas conceded a tighthead, they generally packed a solid scrum which placed the All Blacks under some pressure, especially in the second half when New Zealand replaced front row veterans Tony Woodcock at prop and Andrew Hore at hooker.
Scrummaging forms a major part of the Argentine game and their ability to adapt to rugby's new scrum rules gave them cause for confidence, though they remain without a win after three rounds of the Rugby Championship. Their loss on Saturday followed their 73-13 and 22-17 defeats by South Africa while their record against New Zealand is now 16 losses and a draw from 17 games.
"It was a tough game," Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said. "We defended more than we attacked and when we watch the video I think we will see there were a few tries we couldn't really afford to concede.
"The scrum was a good platform, the lineout not so much so there are a few things we can improve. The All Blacks found a way to win and that's why they're the best team in history maybe."
Argentina started poorly when fullback Juan Martin Hernandez put the opening kickoff into touch on the full. But New Zealand also made early errors and from the most glaring of those -- when debuting centre Francis Saili dropped the ball at his first touch in a test match -- Leguizamon scored unopposed to give the Pumas an immediate advantage.
Carter trimmed the lead with a penalty from a lineout infringement in the ninth minute, breaking through the 1,400 points barrier and extending his record as the leading points scorer in tests. He then missed penalties in the 13th and 16th minutes as Argentina clung to a narrow advantage.
Guinazu was sin-binned in the 22nd minute for a professional foul after Argentina had been warned by French referee Jerome Garces for repeatedly conceding penalties in their own half.
New Zealand took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority. They took a lineout from the penalty that followed Guinazu's yellow card, set up a strong drive then scored the opening try when No. 8 Kieran Read detached and fed Aaron Smith on the blindside. Carter's conversion from the sideline gave New Zealand a 10-7 lead and they weren't headed for the remainder of the match.
Smith scored again in the 26th minute after Carter had broken out of defence, stepping through weak midfield tackling and dashing more than 50 metres. Prop Charlie Faumuina helped keep the ball alive and New Zealand quickly moved possession to Ben Smith on the right wing. His chipped kick ahead was closely pursued by flanker Stephen Luatua who overran the ball and Aaron Smith, as the second pursuer, was then on hand to touch down.
Penalties to Sanchez on either side of halftime, one of which was answered by Carter, left New Zealand with a relatively brittle 18-13 lead after 51 minutes.
But Savea's try in the 54th minute extended the lead to 12 points and made the game safe. Read attacked the Argentina goalline after a charged-down kick and New Zealand moved the ball wide skilfully in the wet conditions to create and overlap for Savea.
Beauden Barrett, who replaced Carter, added a penalty in the 74th minute from a professional foul by Argentina's returning captain, Lobbe, to complete the scoring.
Both sides suffered significant injuries. Argentina lost winger Gonzalo Camacho with a dislocated Australia and he will now not travel to Australia for the Pumas' match next weekend against the Wallabies. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was assisted from the field in the 60th minute of his 119th test match with what seemed a serious injury to his left knee. Prop Wyatt Crockett also left the field close to fulltime for a concussion test.