By Lobsang DS Subirana
Sports Desk, Sep 15 (EFE).- New Zealand returned to winning ways Friday at the Rugby World Cup in France, producing a morale-boosting 11-try display in wet conditions against a very inferior Namibia team who never looked to trouble the three-time champions in Pool A.
The 71-3 result at the Stadium de Toulouse gave the All Blacks a much needed victory following an embarrassing loss to South Africa in a warm-up game and their first ever pool stage loss to France in the tournament’s opening match last week.
“It’s pretty surreal, we’re quite fortunate that our forwards were dominant, giving me a good platform to play off,” scrum-half Cam Roigaard said in his pitch-side interview after collecting his Man of the Match award.
New Zealand began as strongly as they did against the French, and fly-half Damian Mckenzie used the very first spell of possession to find fullback Beauden Barrett, who kicked the ball to Leicester Fainga’anuku deep into Namibia’s half.
The winger played a fast interchange with inside center David Havili and drove through the defense before offloading to Roigaard, who scored the first try with just two minutes on the clock.
It became clear New Zealand weren’t going to relinquish the lead this time when McKenzie then ran the length of the field and almost grounded a kick from Barrett that fell just short of the try line.
But the All Blacks dominated the ensuing five-meter defensive scrum, recuperating the ball and again finding Roigaard, who scored his second try in five minutes.
Namibian fly-half Tiaan Swanepoel kicked a penalty to put what would be the Welwitschias’ only points on the board for the night, before a sour moment brought the game to a halt after Namibian inside center Le Roux Malan looked to have suffered a severe leg injury.
“That fella who injured his leg, I hope he’s alright, we don’t like seeing people get injured like that,” Roigaard said about the incident.
It was one way traffic from then on, as New Zealand again found themselves at a ruck in the Namibian five-meter line, playing straight to McKenzie who easily carved through the defense to score under the posts.
The rain now started to pour and so did the tries, as Fainga’anuku again took advantage of some poor Namibian tackling to barge over the whitewash, as three defenders failed to stop his team scoring 24 points in almost as many minutes.
The All Blacks kept the ball, playing a dominant territory game that starved the Welwitschias of possession and forced a flurry of missed tackles – 44 percent of them in total – that opened gaps aplenty.
Outside center Anton Lienert-Brown poked through one of them with a double kick chase that he grounded unopposed. Minutes later Roigaard found another, dummying a pass off a scrum in the halfway line and feeding McKenzie’s support line for the fly-half to comfortably score his second of the night and extend an unassailable lead into half time.
The recital continued in the second half, with New Zealand tries mounting into double figures, scored in all fashions and flavors: from mauls, in open play, off scrums, flashy offloads and galloping runs.
The All Blacks’ statistics told the story: 733 meters carried, 43 defenders beaten, 100 percent lineout success, 64 percent possession, 189 passes and – perhaps most concerningly – one red card.
Replacement prop Ethan De Groot, who crashed over to score a try just minutes after coming on, later crashed his shoulder into replacement Namibian No. 8 Adriaan Booysen’s head and was given a yellow card, upgraded in the dying minutes by the bunker review system.
It means he could miss at least the rest of the pool stages and be unavailable for their fixture against Italy on Sep. 30 in Lyon.
Despite the minor setback and scant learnings from a heavily lopsided match, the former champions will welcome Friday’s dominant display which leaves them second in Pool A, as they take a fortnight off to plan the rest of their World Cup campaign. EFE