Argentina's Pumas did the business against Namibia, crossing for nine tries in a 63-3 win over Namibia that makes them clear favorite to top their World Cup group.
The Pumas are 3-0 and face struggling Ireland next weekend at Paris, needing only to avoid a lopsided loss and conceding a bonus point to be sure of a quarterfinal place.
An Argentina win over Ireland would certainly condemn World Cup host France to a knockout match against tournament favorite New Zealand in Cardiff, Wales — the only quarterfinal on foreign soil.
Argentina's 60-point winning margin was its largest ever at a World Cup, improving on its previous best of 53 which also came against Namibia in 2003.
Felipo Contepomi secured the bonus point Saturday at the Stade Velodrome, jinking through the Namibia defense from a set piece inside the quarter and touching down beside the posts for Argentina's fourth try.
He converted to make it 32-3 with 35 minutes remaining, and had also landed four conversions and two penalties before he was replaced on the hour with Argentina leading 49-3.
It underscored an authoritative display from Contepomi — who switched from center to flyhalf to cover for the injured Juan Martin Hernandez — and his re-established halves pairing with Agustin Pichot.
A high-caliber Pumas XV was too good for a Namibia side featuring 10 changes from its 87-10 loss to France at Toulouse six days earlier. Namibia coach Hakkies Husselman rested key players to save them for their last group match against Georgia on Wednesday.
Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda did not have the luxury of resting all his stars, with injuries forcing him to put Pichot, Contepomi and lock Carlos Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe into action.
Pichot, who starred in the upset 17-12 win over France that upended the pecking order within Group D, missed the Georgia win with a hamstring strain but was called back to lend some stability.
Argentina now has seven days to prepare for Ireland, which struggled to beat Namibia and Georgia and was comprehensively outplayed 25-3 by France.
Pichot said the Pumas needed to win to keep their momentum building to earn its leading position in a difficult group. "Our fate, our destiny, is in our own hands," he said. "Today we went out to play. We had the conviction we were going to play well for Argentina, not necessarily worry about Ireland or France. "Before people we're saying we weren't going to go through (to the quarterfinals), now we're ranked first in our group."
Namibia opened the scoring against Argentina via flyhalf Morne Schreuder's penalty kick from a difficult angle in the seventh minute. But Contepomi leveled with a shot directly in front from 39 meters out two minutes later, and made it 6-3 soon after his brother, Manuel, had a try disallowed in the 20th minute.
Rampaging frontrow forward Rodrigo Roncero barged over amid a driving maul in the 25th to score Argentina's first five-pointer.
No. 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon got the second, picking up from the base of a five-meter scrum and burrowing over after the Pumas opted for another scrum instead of a penalty in the 35th.
Manuel Contepomi dived over in the tackle of Deon Mouton just inside the left corner flag after a Pumas attacking raid that started inside their own territory to make it 25-3 at the break.
Namibia skipper Corne Powell said his team was competitive until half time, then lost contact. "There must be a reason why Argentina are on top of the 'group of death' — they're a very good, positive team," said Powell, who turned his attention immediately to the Georgia match.
"It's hard with three top teams in the group. We always targeted one win — it's important we get a good result against Georgia."
Argentina fullback Ignacio Corleto butchered a chance in the 43rd, getting outside his defender but rifling the last pass high and wide of unmarked winger Horacio Aguilla.
It was one of a handful of missed opportunities for the Pumas backs, who used the match as a chance to hone their running lines.
Leguizamon dived over for his second in the 51st, Gonzalo Tiesi crossed on the end of an overlap, and Corleto slid over on the short side in a six-minute scoring blitz by the Pumas.
When referee Stuart Dickinson awarded a penalty try for an infringement in a five-meter scrum in the 63rd, Namibia looked completely out of energy.
But the Pumas only got one more try, with Federico Todeschini returning from injury as a second-half substitute for a converted try nine minutes from time.Reuse content