The All Blacks bounced back from their disappointment in Chicago by trouncing Italy 68-10 in front of a near sell-out game in Rome.
Sometimes their forwards set up play by attracting too many defenders and providing space out wide, but at other times it was enough for the piggies to run through the opposition and score themselves.
The All Blacks showed no interest in running the ball in their half and were content to chase long kicks and duly retrieve the ball in Italy real estate. Then they ran it and when they were pressed, short passes beat defenders. It worked a treat.
As a consequence centre Malakai Fekitoa scored from a five-metre scrum; prop Charlie Faumuina charged looking for tacklers, and not finding any, scored; then lock Patrick Tuipulotu touched down after a running maul.
With only a quarter of the game gone the All Blacks led 21-3.
If some of the less-experienced local players were perplexed by the individual and team skills of the Kiwis, they wouldn’t be the Lone Rangers in World Rugby. However they were compelled to watch the All Blacks too much as they passed the ball in contact, or just before it.
Winger Israel Dagg profited with a try in front of Azzurri spectators and, following a scrum option from a penalty, loose head prop Wyatt Crockett scored too easily also.
All the NZ tries had been converted by first-five Aaron Cruden.
Half-time score: New Zealand 35 – Italy 3.
Simone Favaro grounded – was one of the best for the Azzurri
The All Blacks scored a marvellous try soon after the break when Cruden kick-passed, and after the ball went to flanker Elliot Dixon near halfway he charged towards the line before dishing to scorer no. 8 Steve Luatua.
The scoreboard was unchanged for some time but just before the hour mark loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett galloped into space and Fekitoa dotted down for his second. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith followed with a long run and after a lineout Matt Todd charged and Dixon went over. After the first All Black conversion of the day was missed they led 54-3 with 15 minutes left.
The Azzurri were not accustomed to the pace of the game: they were playing with tired legs and it didn’t help that they kicked the ball away so much to add to their tackle count.
But then their moment came. The Kiwis made few handling errors in the game but a loose carry was intercepted by reserve Eduardo Gori who slipped the ball to Tommaso Boni for a try 60 metres later.
The scoring continued when replacement Rieko Ioane touched down after a break from replacement first-five Lima Sopoaga, and ended when stationary centre Anton Lienert-Brown handed off to Waisake Naholo.
Final score: New Zealand 68 – Italy 10.
Rieko Ioane – scored his first test try (probably of many)
The wrap up
Italy hadn’t won a game in Rome since the 2013 Six Nations and never looked likely to win this one. They could have been more competitive if they had started with the likes of of Edoardo Gori and Tommaso Allan but new coach Conor O’Shea might have thought that they were going to lose anyway; so why not give some greenhorns a baptism of fire?
The All Blacks did not react angrily to their loss last week and simply carried out their plan for this match, made before they left home, to confirm that they have a cadre of elite newcomers in their stable, and to assess them.
They owned the stats contest too. The All Blacks scored 10 tries to 1 – ran for 1079 metres to 279 – beat defenders 45 to 7 – made 28 clean breaks to 3 – and had the ball, and were in the Italy half, 63% of the time.
Waisake Naholo – attracted tacklers
The Game Changer
It’s hard to nominate a moment when the game changed in a one-sided match. If you asked the disappointed home crowd it would have been when replacement Boni scored gloriously with his first touch.
But the probable key moment was 15 minutes after the kick-off when NZ were up by only 7-3; Faumuina charged onto the ball to score, and that was when the music died.
Man of the match
Individual players for the Azzurri had scant chances to impress. Inexperienced fullback Edoardo Padovani had some good moments, but flanker Simone Favaro was the best of the home side and had to be knocked off the ball several times.
The rise and rise of All Black second-five, Lienert-Brown continued, winger Dagg put in a good shift away from his best position at fullback, and Cruden got the official award for his game management.
However the forwards scored four of the first five tries and the Green & Gold MOTM award went to one of the piggies. Of them, Luatua ran dominantly, though he threw the pass for the intercept try; lock Scott Barrett deserved a mention for showing promise in his first starting test, and Faumuina did an Italian job on tacklers.
But the Green and Gold award went to loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett who ran strongly, scrummaged without incident for a change, scored a try and set one up for Fekitoa.
Wyatt Crockett – Man of the match
Try: T. Boni
Conversion: T. Allan
Penalty: C. Canna
Tries: M. Fekitoa (2), I. Dagg, W. Naholo, W. Crockett, C. Faumuina, P. Tuipulotu, E. Dixon, S. Luatua, R. Ioane.
Conversions: A. Cruden (7), L. Sopoaga (2).
Get more match information from NZ Herald.
Stats courtesy of NZ Herald