New Zealand U20s win in unconvincing fashion
New Zealand have until Friday to improve after a patchy performance against Samoa in the Under-20 Rugby World Championships on the North Shore tonight.
A 48-12 winning margin flattered the hosts, running in three late tries to cap the performance, after Samoa had pushed them hard for 60 minutes.
The Samoan forwards in particular were winning the arm wrestle with New Zealand's big men, handing them a timely tune-up ahead of their next match against South Africa on Friday.
New Zealand started the better, with first-five Richard Mo'unga slotting an early penalty.
Fullback Damien McKenzie and wing Vince Tavae-Aso were causing problems with the ball in hand, McKenzie in particular with the duel threat of an accurate boot and incisive running.
Wellington centre Jackson Garden-Bachop scored New Zealand's first try of the tournament after 11 minutes, getting on the end of a neat backline move to score in the left corner.
Tavae-Aso set up halfback Mitchell Drummond for New Zealand's second after a turnover, sprinting up the right wing before passing inside to Drummond for the score.
Samoa's ill discipline at scrum time came back to bite them late in the first half, when Richard Mariota and Lakisipone Lee were caught leaving the scrum early.
That led to a New Zealand lineout 10 metres from the line which New Zealand were able to drive over for their third try through Mathew Peni.
Samoa did strike back late in the half as Lee bounded across the line after strong forward play inside the New Zealand 22, handing them a massive boost to the confidence before the break.
Captain Henry Stowers and the Samoan forward pack were forcing turnovers in good field position after halftime, and New Zealand were forced to stand strong on their own line.
Calls of ''black wall'' were ringing out from the New Zealand defensive line as they repelled attack after Samoan attack, and then looked to counter.
Counter they did, eventually making their way to midfield before a break by Peni up the middle of the park.
McKenzie was frequently stepping into first receiver from his fullback position, and found Garden-Bachop in acres of space on the right for his second try of the match.
Samoa continued to attack, and with the forwards unable to muscle their way across the New Zealand line, they turned to the backs with Nathaniel Apa scoring in the corner.
That reduced New Zealand's lead to 15 with 20 minutes remaining, and coach Chris Boyd turned to Blues Super Rugby players Simon Hickey and Tevita Li off the bench.
The stars of the New Zealand squad couldn't make an immediate impact as Samoa continued to dominate possession and territory, and their forwards were winning the battle with their Kiwi counterparts.
That was when one of the stars struck.
McKenzie's pass put Li into a gap near halfway, and the Blues wing sprinted diagonally across field past the Samoan defence to score.
With the lead out to 22 points with eight minutes remaining, the home side could relax as the match wound down.
With the Blues wing on the scoreboard, it was Anton Lienert-Brown's turn to score with four minutes remaining, before Kyle Harris added a seventh try in the final minute to cap the rout.
There will be plenty to work on for New Zealand before South Africa on Friday, after the Africans hammered Scotland 61-5.
In other results, France beat Ireland 19-13, Wales thrashed Fiji 48-19, England destroyed Italy 63-3 and Australia were 36-17 winners over Argentina.
New Zealand 48 (Jackson Garden-Bachop 2, Mitchell Drummond, Mathew Peni, Tevita Li, Anton Lienert-Brown, Kyle Harris tries; Richard Mo'unga 2, Simon Hickey 3 cons; Mo'unga pen) Samoa 12 (Lakisipone Lee, Nathaniel Apa tries; William Mu con). HT: 22-7.