All Blacks cap off pool play in style
Asserting their dominance through their scrum and some outstanding individual play by fullback Damian McKenzie, the All Blacks eventually overran a feisty Uruguay team 73-0 in their final pool game at the Rugby World Cup in Lyon.
It was a game that tested the adaptive qualities of the All Blacks as they sought a way to quell the spirit of the Uruguayans, and once they found their momentum and continuity, they proved unstoppable.
McKenzie was in his element, scoring two tries, while left-wing Leicester Fainga'anuku was busy and bullocky throughout and had reward with three tries. But it was through the scrum that the All Blacks gained their advantage.
Despite the early loss of tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax to a knee injury, the pack ground Uruguay down, inflicting a succession of penalties on them, and the All Blacks used that difference to develop their foundation for the remainder of the game. They also lost Lomax's replacement, Fletcher Newell, in the last 10 minutes, necessitating the return to play of Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Having waited 19 minutes to get on the scoreboard, the All Blacks used a five-metre scrum in front of the posts to work a move to see McKenzie run into a gap to score.
Four minutes later, a dropped ball in front of the posts by Uruguay's first five-eighths Felipe Etcheverry, after they tried to clear a deep kick by McKenzie, allowed Mo'unga to run through for the second try.
McKenzie set up the third try again in the 34th minute when joining the line, putting a kick ahead, winning the race and then, in a piece of magic, he took the ball on the sideline and turned the ball to wing Will Jordan, who was untroubled in scoring.
Another five-metre scrum survived miscommunication between No8 Luke Jacobson and Roigard, the latter tidying, stepping his marker and running through the gap to score two minutes before halftime.
Uruguay relished the contact in the early exchanges and denied the All Blacks the flow they wanted to establish control. Troublesome around the breakdown, Uruguay worked the advantage line, and it was only forced passing that let them down.
The sides were denied three tries due to technicalities, Roigard and McKenzie being denied for the All Blacks and Uruguay flanker Manuel Ardao for stepping into touch when diving for a try.
That was the only genuine chance Uruguay had as three lineouts close to the All Blacks' line were contained by their defence.
The second half was entirely dominated by the All Blacks, scoring in the 44th minute through Newell; it was enough to set in train a regular sequence of tries for the remainder of the game.
The scrum continued to hamper Uruguay as the All Blacks squeezed them to allow the backs to run their moves and to continually use the space in the wider parts of the field, allowing Jordan to claim two tries and Fainga'anuku his hat-trick.
There was also continuity when the substitutes were introduced, with flanker Ethan Blackadder making his first appearance, prop Tamaiti Williams getting among the try scorers and halfback Finlay Christie and wing Caleb Clarke getting runs and chances to show their abilities.
Among those who started, lock Tupou Vaa'i showed his developing powers and was especially consistent in taking restarts and driving ahead. Captain and flanker Sam Cane had welcome time across the 80 minutes and made strong tackles as the Uruguayans tried to throw the ball around.
With nine changes made for the game, the players chosen gave the selectors plenty to think about as they consider their side for the quarterfinal they confirmed with the win.
New Zealand 73 (Damian McKenzie 2, Richie Mo'unga, Will Jordan 2, Cameron Roigard, Fletcher Newell, Leicester Fainga'anuku 3, Tamaiti Williams tries; Mo'unga 5 con; McKenzie 2 con; Beauden Barrett 2 con) Uruguay 0. HT: 26-0