Centre Malakai Fekitoa scored a brace as the All Blacks clinched a commanding 68-10 win over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
On the back of New Zealand’s shock loss to Ireland in Chicago last week which halted their tier-one record 18-Test winning streak, the All Blacks’ next opponents were always on a hiding to nothing. Unfortunately for Italy, they were those opponents who certainly felt the wrath from start to finish.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had made a total of 12 changes to his lineup. But unlike any other Test team who would have looked to strengthen their ranks after a defeat, Hansen fielded a youthful match 23 with two uncapped players on the bench. And yet, they were never troubled by the Azzurri, who had no answer to the black wave of attack.
New Zealand enjoyed gainline success at free will, resulting in tries for Malakai Fekitoa, Charlie Faumuina and Patrick Tuipulotu within the opening 20 minutes. Flyhalf Carlo Canno slotted a penalty in-between the carnage, but that didn’t derail the visitors, who scored two more beautifully created tries for a 35-3 lead going to the sheds.
Steven Luatua added his name to the scoresheet soon after the restart, before Fekitoa completed his double after a midfield break by Wyatt Crockett.
And although Italy’s non-existent defence leaked another five-pointer soon after, the Azzurri deserve credit for fighting their way past a New Zealand defence to score through Tommaso Boni, which had the home crowd on their feet in celebration.
It was only a temporary reprieve, though, before debutant Rieko Ioane went over for the All Blacks’ ninth try. The prodigious talent powered through a couple of tackles to score his maiden Test effort.
Italy would have hoped to hear the final whistle after that, but there was still time left for big-framed Waisake Naholo to also go over as the All Blacks wrapped up their most comfortable win of the year.
Italy – Try: Tommaso Boni. Conversion: Carlo Canna. Penalty: Canna.
All Blacks – Tries: Malakai Fekitoa (2), Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Israel Dagg, Wyatt Crockett, Steven Luatua, Elliot Dixon, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (6), Lima Sopoaga (3).
Italy – 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 Andries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 George Biagi, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Tommaso Boni.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images/AFP