The All Blacks overcame a spirited first-half effort from Namibia to claim a 71-9 bonus-point win in Tokyo on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Although the world champs certainly didn’t have it all their own way, they ultimately got the job done to confirm their status as Pool B winners and subsequently book a place in the quarter-finals.
But, with a powerful side selected for this clash, there will be some concern that they failed to dominate in the manner expected early on. Thanks to an even share of the territorial and possession stakes, Namibia kept New Zealand honest – and frustrated – for the best part of the first half.
But it speaks to the class of the All Blacks that they still managed to muster up a handy half-time despite their lacklustre display, before seizing control of the game in the second stanza.
Adding to their indifferent performance, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will also be none too pleased with conceding two yellow cards either side of the break. Front rowers Nepo Lualala and Ofa Tuungafasi were given their marching orders for two similar high tackle offences.
The All Blacks had the bonus point wrapped up on the stroke of half-time, with fullback Ben Smith scoring some five minutes into stoppage time, while Sevu Reece, Anton Lienart-Brown and Angus Ta’avao also dotted down.
The All Blacks’ uncharacteristically poor handling and the wayward kicking of Barrett meant the reigning champs didn’t completely run away with it initially, despite opening up a 24-9 lead before the break.
New Zealand hit their stride in the second half and the floodgates opened. Reece, Lienert-Brown and Smith completed their braces, while prop Joe Moody, lock and stand-in captain Sam Whitelock and Jordie Barrett also dotted down.
But the All Blacks left the best for last when TJ Perenara finished off a ridiculous try. Perenara started an attack, and having stayed in support, he took a brilliant behind-the-back flick pass from Brad Weber and sprinted down the touchline before going airborne to dot down in the corner despite the attention of two Namibian tacklers.
New Zealand – Tries: Sevu Reece (2), Angus Ta’avao, Anton Lienert-Brown (2), Ben Smith (2), Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock, Jordie Barrett, TJ Perenara. Conversions: Barrett (8).
Namibia – Penalties: Damian Stevens (3).
New Zealand – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Leinert-Brown, 11 George Bridge, 10 Jordie Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Brodie Rettalick, 3 Nepo Lualala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 T J Perenara, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Namibia – 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Lesley Klim, 13 Justin Newman, 12 Johan Deysel (captain), 11 JC Greyling, 10 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Thomasau Forbes, 6 Prince Gaoseb, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi, 4 PJ Van Lill, 3 AJ De Klerk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Andre Rademeyer.
Subs: 16 Obert Nortje, 17 Nelius Theron, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Adriaan Booysen, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 Darryl De La Harpe, 23 Janry du Toit.