All Blacks take maximum points in Lyon triumph
Scrum power, lineout variations, backline precision, and All Blacks magic contributed to a 96-17 Rugby World Cup pool win over Italy at Lyon on Saturday (NZT).
It was five points short of equalling the All Blacks' best points performance against Italy and was their 16th victory over them.
They combined the starting XV and the substitutes to prevent Italy from getting into their game in Lyon and showed what this squad can do when the muse is with them.
It was a case of welcome back for blindside flanker Shannon Frizell and second five-eighths Jordie Barrett. At the same time, there would have been satisfaction with prop Tyrell Lomax joining with loosehead substitute Tamaiti Williams to overpower the Italy scrum, seemingly at will.
Frizell and Barrett offered the All Blacks many more options, especially in their fields of expertise, while the promise provided by those returning from injury was a confidence boost.
Frizell was dynamic with the ball and punished the Italian tacklers whenever they got in his way. Barrett offered strength in the midfield while his kicking from penalties to touch set up the pack to do their work in driving play.
Discipline personified marked the All Blacks' first half as they posted five tries in the first 26 minutes and finished with seven in the half and 13 overall. They conceded only one penalty in those 26 minutes, while Italy conceded four, and the All Blacks made them pay for each one.
They were able to score two tries from lineout drives, both of them to halfback Aaron Smith and second five-eighths Jordie Barrett marked his return with a perfect fifth-minute cross-kick to wing Will Jordan, who stretched to catch it and then dive over in the corner for his 24th Test try.
But the gem of them all was from the restart after Smith's first try. Captain and No8 Ardie Savea, dynamic throughout the game, charged into a gap from their 22m area. He linked with fullback Beauden Barrett, who had a surfeit of choices for a pass. He cork-screwed out of trouble and then flung it to wing Mark Tele'a, who got through three tackles to score a superb team try.
Savea scored a set-piece try of precision from a lineout where Frizell threw the ball down from high as Savea swept by and through a gap to flummox the Italian defence in the 21st minute.
He capped the All Blacks' first-half advantage with an injury-time try from a lineout drive.
Apart from a ninth-minute penalty goal to fullback Tommaso Allan, Italy had no other scoring chances.
However, they could hold onto the ball through the early stages of the second half and extract penalties to make the All Blacks suffer, and after two attempts close to the line, they moved the ball for ace wing Ange Capuozzo to score in the 47th minute. That period and their last-minute try would have been the only areas of significant concern for team management.
After they conceded the first try, they brought on substitutes, with lock Sam Whitelock claiming the Test cap record, and the new group pressured Italy from the restart. An attempted clearing kick by replacement halfback Martin Page-Relo was charged down. When the ball was tidied lock, Brodie Retallick scored.
A try to replacement halfback Cam Roigard was denied when he was ruled to have rolled once too often towards the line. But when from the resulting lineout Italy threw too long, hooker Codie Taylor ran onto the ball, fed Tele'a, who broke the tackle and then passed to flanker Dalton Papali'i, who controlled the ball off his hip while moving forward and over the line to score. Hooker Dane Coles was the 60th-minute beneficiary of a lineout move with replacement flanker Sam Cane to run down the sideline to score.
Damian McKenzie replaced Richie Mo'unga at first five-eighths, who had landed nine conversions and directed operations, and within minutes made an impact, crossing in the 66th minute from a scrum move with Roigard passing to second five-eighths replacement Anton Lienert-Brown. He passed inside, and McKenzie had the speed to slice through a gap to score.
Jordan had another chance to show his skills three minutes later when Retallick took a dropped Italy ball and passed outside where Jordan ran down the line, chipped ahead, to see the bounce favour Savea, who then found Jordan on his flank to score his second.
Coles scored his second from a tap penalty, while another lineout variation saw Coles charge around the back and then pass back inside to Roigard, whose speed took him to the line, where he passed back to Lienert-Brown to score.
But Italy had the final say after a counterattack from their line for wing Monty Ioane to score.
New Zealand 96 (Will Jordan 2, Aaron Smith 3, Mark Tele'a, Ardie Savea 2, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali'i, Dane Coles 2, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Richie Mo'unga 9 con; McKenzie 4 con) Italy 17 (Ange Capuozzo, Monty Ioane tries; Tommaso Allan con, pen; Paolo Garbisi con). HT: 49-3
Most capped All Black of all-time 🖤 pic.twitter.com/R5Ap6Oq5ru— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 29, 2023