Planet Rugby

All Blacks cruise past Fiji

22nd July 2011 07:35

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conrad smith all blacks v fiji

All smiles: NZ centre Conrad Smith pounces for the All Blacks' fifth try

New Zealand got their Test season off to a winning start on Friday with a comfortable 60-14 win over Fiji at Carisbrook in Dunedin.

As expected, the world's top-ranked team outclassed their visitors in almost every aspect, running in seven tries to two.

Despite the final scoreline, the Tri-Nations champions will not be overly happy with their performance as it sometimes lacked the accuracy that will be needed against the Springboks and Wallabies over the coming weeks.

Credit however must be given to Fiji, who claimed their best ever result against New Zealand, scoring both their tries in the second half.

A 'work in progress' would probably be the fairest assessment of the All Blacks after Friday as Graham Henry and co. implement their new offensive structure.

After a somewhat rusty start from the All Blacks - and some solid defending by the visitors - New Zealand held an 18-0 lead after the opening half-hour.

The hosts gathered some momentum before the sides swapped ends though and took a 32-0 lead into the half-time break.

Deprived of any decent possession, Fiji never seriously threatened the try-line in the first half but matched the home side for half-an-hour after the break.

Colin Slade got the scoreboard ticking as the hosts took a cautious approach and opted for points from an early penalty.

Fijian-born Sitiveni Sivivatu was the first to cross the whitewash for New Zealand, finishing off in the corner just inside the ten-minute mark.

Slade showed great vision in scoring New Zealand's second try with a clever chip over the top which he chased down to score under the sticks after the ball ricocheted off the goal-post's padding.

The men in black continued to dominate possession and grabbed try number three when the ball was quickly spread wide to Andrew Hore, who had an easy run-in on the overlap.

Adam Thomson extended his try-scoring streak from Super Rugby as he burrowed his way over just before the break to give the hosts a 32-point head start going into the second forty.

Fiji made a much stronger start to the second half, enjoying an extended period of possession in the All Blacks' territory and were rewarded with a try when number eight Sakiusa Matadigo showed great pace in tearing down the touchline before offloading to scrum-half Nemia Serelevu who scampered over.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry was quick to call on his bench as he sent on Ben Smith, Sam Whitelock and Piri Weepu for Sivivatu, Jarrad Hoeata and Jimmy Cowan respectively. The scrum-half would soon have an impact as his grubber set up Hurricanes team-mate Conrad Smith on the hour-mark.

Slade's conversion was his last contribution of the match as he was soon replaced by Dan Carter, who was accompanied by the remainder of the Kiwi bench.

The hosts' sixth try came largely thanks to the replacements as Weepu's chip over the top created space for Mils Muliaina and Ben Smith, who offloaded to the supporting Weepu.

Fiji replied via a try from replacement Vereniki Goneva, who showed great skills to chip ahead and then volley again before touching down.

The visitors' scrum suffered for most of the match and conceded a penalty try in the closing stages. Muliaina added try number eight at the death with a break-away score after collecting a long, floating inside pass from Zac Guildford.

Man of the match: A mention for skipper Richie McCaw but we'll go with Colin Slade who responded to huge pressure with a cool-headed performance.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries: Sivivatu, Slade, Hore, Thomson, C. Smith, Weepu, Penalty try, Muliaina
Cons: Slade 4, Carter 3
Pens: Slade 2

For Fiji:
Tries: Serelevu, Goneva
Cons: Bai 2

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Dan Carter, 22 Ben Smith.

Fiji: 15 Iliesa Keresoni, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Seremaia Baikeinuku, 9 Nemia Serelevu, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Rupeni Nasiga, 4 Sekonaia Kalou, 3 Deacon Manu (c), 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Setefano Somoca, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Malakai Ravulo, 20 Vitori Buatava, 21 Taniela Rawaqa, 22 Vereniki Goneva.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

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