The All Blacks kicked off their international season with a hard-fought 25-16 victory over Samoa in a historic Test in Apia on Wednesday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It was the All Blacks’ first appearance in Samoa, and understandably there was no shortage of physicality and effort from the home side.
A passionate crowd packed out the small and narrow Apia Park in hot and humid conditions, and in the end there was plenty for the Samoan supporters to shout about as the hosts kept the reigning world champs at bay for large parts of the encounter.
This wasn’t completely unexpected, though, considering the All Blacks had made the trip without a host of star players who featured for the Highlanders and Hurricanes in last Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby final.
For the most part, the encounter wasn’t quite the free-flowing spectacle it had promised to be, with the whistle of South African referee Jaco Peyper dominating the first half as discipline and handling let both sides down.
Dan Carter opened the scoring with a penalty in the seventh minute, and the All Blacks flyhalf doubled that advantage with another shot at goal just before the quarter-hour mark.
Samoan flyhalf Tusi Pisi drew three points back soon after, but Carter comfortably knocked over a couple more penalties to extend the visitor's advantage to 12-3 at the break.
Carter would turn to try-creator just after half-time when a perfectly weighted cross-kick was expertly collected by winger George Moala, who bumped off one attempted tackle before dashing over to score the opening try.
Although that try could have threatened to break the Samoans' stubborn resistance, Pisi promptly responded with two penalties to reduce the deficit to 10 points.
Carter added his fifth penalty soon after, but Samoan flanker Alafoti Faosiliva both started and finished off a superb try-scoring movement to make it a six-point ball game heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
However, the All Blacks would finally seal the result with another Carter penalty in the 75th minute, taking his personal points tally to 20 for the match.
All Blacks – Tries: George Moala. Conversion: Dan Carter. Penalties: Dan Carter (6).
Samoa – Try: Alafoti Faosiliva. Conversion: Tusi Pisi. Penalties: Tusi Pisi (3).
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 George Moala, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charlie Ngatai.
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai Williams, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Wayne ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Iosefa Tekori, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 Faialaga Afamasaga, 23 Ken Pisi.
Photo: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images