Revenge would be overselling it. After all, it was a 34-point win last weekend. But the All Blacks will dig into a much heartier slice of satisfaction after their second-test effort against Fiji.
In a week where it almost felt like New Zealand had been forced to pore over a loss, such had the men in black been beaten up at the breakdown in Dunedin, this was a bit more like it against the world No 11, in Hamilton on Saturday night.
In front of a sellout crowd at FMG Stadium Waikato of 20,135 – albeit with the covered section of the old stand unopened for the test – the hosts overcame a slow start to power away for a 60-13 victory.
Havili class for All Blacks try
Backed by a heap of possession (60 per cent) and territory (71 per cent), it’s the sort of performance the All Blacks, and coach Ian Foster, needed, in a last hitout before things get a bit more serious in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.
A souped-up side still had to withstand a gallant, physical Fijian outfit, who put on some serious one-on-one hits, but there were not nearly the same worries at the collision area as there had been seven days prior.
The visitors were not about to find the same success two weeks in a row, and too often found themselves on the wrong side of Australian referee Graham Cooper to be any sort of force there.
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The All Blacks still had their failings – an early faltering lineout and a fired-up, exploding-out-of-the-blocks Fiji, with a hearty contingent of their fans to the fore with full voice, had them under early pressure, and the home side led by just four points after half an hour.
But once the tide turned, there was no turning back, as the All Blacks’ own Fijian flyer, Sevu Reece, collected a first-half hat-trick and, with Richie Mo’unga provided a compelling case in his chance at No 10, the hosts eased to a 29-6 halftime advantage.
A Nemani Nadolo knock on from the restart then set the tone for the second stanza, as Will Jordan kept his tryscoring feats going, before immediately leaving with an apparent injury.
All Blacks join Fiji in hymn circle
While Fiji managed one try, thanks to a 44th minute burst from a lineout range to prop Peni Ravai, the All Blacks surged away, and, as a late game-eve callup, debutant hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho bagged a double on his Chiefs home ground.
Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie illustrated plenty of desperation to sprint back and chase down Ben Volavola on his intercept run, and turn the ball over right on the tryline, the type of effort which would have been music to the ears of Foster in his Hamilton homecoming.
Earlier on, if the All Blacks had wanted a solid start to settle the nerves, they certainly didn’t get it, with the Flying Fijians doing just that – exploding out of the blocks.
Like Dunedin, they opened the scoring off the boot of Volavola, then they kept the pressure on, attacking Codie Taylor’s misfiring darts.
Finally with some front-foot ball to attack off, the All Blacks spurned an opportunity at the posts and pocketed immediate rewards, with David Havili bursting through and flicking for Reece to coast over in the 15th minute.
And then came a tangible show of respect from the home side, as skipper Sam Whitelock instructed Mo’unga to slot a penalty to give New Zealand some breathing space at 10-6 on the half-hour mark.
But, in the space of one head-shaking moment just after the restart, fullback Kini Murimurivalu coughed up a kick collection, and his drop was seemingly mirrored by 14 other players’ heads, and from the scrum, Aaron Smith and Mo’unga worked the shortside to put Reece over for his double.
And it quickly unravelled for the visitors. The All Blacks muscled up in lineout defence, then Mo’unga opted to audaciously tap and go, and even with an ugly pass to ground, it still found it’s intended target, and Reece was able to go in for his hat-trick, while Fiji captain Leone Nakarawa was the fall guy for his team’s warning, and was off to the sin bin.
And after Ardie Savea crashed over after the siren to mark his 50th test, and return from injury, in style, the All Blacks had all of a sudden piled on 19 points in 10 minutes.
AT A GLANCE
All Blacks 60 (Sevu Reece 3, Samisoni Taukei’aho 2, Ardie Savea, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Shannon Frizell tries; Richie Mo’unga 5 con, pen, Beauden Barrett con) Fiji 13 (Peni Ravai try; Ben Volavola con, 2 pen). HT: 29-6.