NEW ZEALAND 78-0 SAMOA
The All Blacks have warmed up for the impending British & Irish Lions series with a towelling of Samoa that sections of the British media were quick to label as “ominous”.
With the exception of injured No.8 and captain Kieran Read, hooker Dane Coles, and centre Ryan Crotty, this was as strong a 23 as the All Blacks could have selected. The Barrett brothers (reserve lock Scott, 5/8 Beauden, and reserve back Jordie) made history by being the first set of three brothers named in the same All Black team, and fullback Ben Smith became the All Blacks 68th Test captain.
Samoa also picked the strongest side available to them, coach Alama Ieremia using this and next week’s home fixture against Wales as preparation for the Pacific Nations Cup that doubles as a World Cup qualifying tournament. With just five days preparation, though, this was always going to be a tough assignment for Manu Samoa.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Faalemiga Selesele, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia. Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Dwayne Polataivao, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France). Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia). TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
The sole purpose of this match was to give the All Blacks a pre-Lions series hitout. There was a new centre pairing (Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown) that needed testing, players such as Jerome Kaino coming back from injury layoffs, and a need to re-establish partnerships such as Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett at 9 and 10
Those boxes and several more were ticked, the All Blacks running in twelve tries in all including a 95m classic. It began, as All Black tries so often do, with turnover ball that Ben Smith chose to run rather than kick. It was carried on by Sonny Bill Williams who juggled it before throwing a trademark flick that Beauden Barrett couldn’t catch so instead hacked it ahead and did the rest with his pace, some more soccer skills, and sliding the last five metres to the line.
Samoa actually had the better of the opening 10-15 minutes but came away empty-handed, the TMO halting play with Samoa in full cry after spotting a neck roll. Within a few phases the All Blacks had scored, albeit there was more than a hint of a knock on at the scrum immediately preceding it.
Tim Nanai-Williams gained some bragging rights over his cousin Sonny Bill with a sweet sidestep, but his break came to nothing. At the half hour mark, though, the score was only 7-0 and the Samoan contingent in the crowd were loving it.
The All Blacks second try, described above, took a lot out of the Samoans who had battled bravely until that point, but seemed to lose heart after it. Further tries to No. 8 Ardie Savea and Williams quickly followed.
Half time: All Blacks 28-0 Samoa
Fullback Israel Dagg scored first after the break, set up by the impressive Lienert-Brown, before Julian Savea bagged his 46th career try to go second-equal on the all-time list. That try came off the back of a Brodie Retallick rampage that would’ve had the Lions sitting up and taking notice.
At 40-0 you could see the Samoans were just about out on their feet and while there were moments of individual brilliance they lacked cohesion and any breaks were quickly snuffed out and often turned over.
The next try was a real team effort, replacement halfback TJ Perenara making the initial break, Williams backing him up and offloading, and the ball eventually finding Beauden Barrett on the wing. By this stage Barrett’s brother Scott was out there, but Beauden’s subbing off immediately after scoring meant the three brothers were never on the field at the same time.
Replacement loose forward Vaea Fifita scored next off a Scott Barrett bust and a Campese-like goosestep from Dagg. The try-fest continued with Perenara and Julian Savea combining to put Ardie Savea over, then Jordie Barrett giving a sweet pass to flanker Sam Cane for the twelfth and final try. Replacement 5/8 Lima Sopoaga went close late but a try was ruled out.
This was an impressive performance by the All Blacks and just as importantly they came away with no new injury concerns. If the Lions were in any doubt how tough it’s going to be at Eden Park next week, this would surely have made it crystal clear.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Lienert-Brown, B Barrett 2, A Savea 2, Williams, Dagg, J Savea, Taylor, Fifita, Perenara, Cane
Cons: B Barrett 7, Sopoaga 2
WALES 24-6 TONGA
In the early game Wales, minus their 12 Lions and wearing their alternate black strip, took on Tonga. The match was originally set down for Nuku’alofa but the Welsh scouting party considered the facilities not up to scratch and requested it be transferred.
Other than the occasional Tongan breakout Wakes dominated possession and territory early on, crossing the line three times in the first 19 minutes but only the third resulting in a try and an 8-0 lead.
The second quarter saw Tonga with more ball and mounting some promising attacks, but let down by poor handling and option taking. They did get on the board with a penalty, though, Wales leading 8-3 at the break.
Tonga were first on the board after the resumption with a penalty, but Wales soon re-established their lead by replying in kind. As the match meandered along the weather started to close in, more of a misty dew than actual rain, but not helping the already poor handling from both teams.
Into the final quarter and with the match still very much in the balance Wales extended their lead to 14-6 with another penalty. A fourth penalty with two minutes remaining ensured the win and a last-minute penalty try for a deliberately-collapsed lineout drive on the goal line confirmed the margin.