New Zealand cantered to the bonus-point victory they needed to progress to the World Cup quarter-finals with an 11-try thrashing of Uruguay on Thursday night.
Fullback Damian McKenzie starred for the All Blacks with a try in each half, two conversions and a brilliant one-handed offload for Will Jordan to score the first of his two tries in a 73-0 win.
Richie Mo’unga, who also kicked five conversions, Cam Roigard, Fletcher Newell, Leicester Fainga’anuku with a hat-trick and Tamaiti Williams also crossed in the whitewash.
“I think it was a really enjoyable game, pretty freeflowing. It took us a long time to break down Uruguay to be honest, they defended so well,” said man-of-the-match McKenzie.
“But we managed to put some points on the board so I’m so proud of the lads.
“We’ve got to where we want to be, now we want to get better and move on to the quarters. I’m really excited for the week to come.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 5, 2023
On a night of celebration, veteran lock Sam Whitelock set a new record of 23 World Cup appearances, surpassing the marks of compatriot Richie McCaw and England’s Jason Leonard.
However, they did lose prop Tyrel Lomax to a recurrence of significant knee injury early on.
New Zealand must now wait and see if they win Pool A or finish second, depending on whether Italy can topple France on Friday night.
But following similar thrashings of Namibia and Italy, this took their tally to 36 tries and 240 points in their last three matches since their opening pool defeat to France.
For Uruguay head coach Esteban Meneses it has been a positive World Cup with oe win and two competitive defeats before this blow-out.
“New Zealand are the best team in the world. We played well in the first 20 minutes,” Meneses said.
“They are a very tough team in the contact. I am very proud of Uruguay in the World Cup.”
New Zealand thought they had taken the lead in the eighth minute but scrum-half Roigard lost the ball in grounding it and Uruguay survived.
The All Blacks were much less crisp and precise than in their 14-try demolition of Italy a week earlier and were guilty of several handling errors.
Uruguay initially played with the same effervescence as in valiant defeats to France and Italy and thought they had taken the lead when Manuel Ardao dived over in the corner on 13 minutes.
But a desperate last-gasp tackle from centre Anton Lienert-Brown just forced the tournament’s top jackler into touch.
New Zealand again thought they had scored when McKenzie went over but that too was chalked off for a neck-roll in the build up.
McKenzie was not denied for long, stepping inside a tackler to finally get New Zealand on the board on 20 minutes.
Fly-half Mo’unga converted and then soon ran in a second try, with both coming from five-metre scrums as the All Blacks machine started to purr.
McKenzie was on fire and collected his own grubber before flicking the ball inside to Jordan while narrowly avoiding stepping into touch for the wing to scamper over under the posts.
The All Blacks were deadly from close range and from another five-metre scrum, Roigard dummied and stepped his way over the line to bring up the bonus point.
Mo’unga kicked three conversions and New Zealand led 26-0 at the break.
The second half quickly turned into an unstoppable rout.
Replacement prop Newell broke a tackle to go over from close range and then wing Fainga’anuku took a huge miss-pass from Jordan to streak in down the flank.
Sustained pressure on the Uruguay line then saw McKenzie exploit a gap to dart over for his second.
From another five-metre scrum, slick handling sent Jordan in for his second in the corner.
It was past the hour mark and Uruguay were tiring as New Zealand attacked from deep to send Fainga’anuku in for his second.
Uruguay wilted and replacement prop Williams added his name to the try-scorers before Fainga’anuku completed his hat-trick.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP