New Zealand reacts to Irish loss with 68-10 win in Italy
ROME (AP) — Italy felt the full effect of a New Zealand backlash as the All Blacks strolled to a 68-10 win at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
A reaction was expected from the All Blacks after a shock loss to Ireland last weekend for the first time in 111 years, and the end of an 18-test winning streak.
"We needed to bounce back after falling from All Blacks standards last week," captain Sam Cane said. "The way we gelled and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over through 80 minutes was pleasing."
Italy has never beaten New Zealand, and knew the best it could hope for was damage limitation.
The damage was limited to 10 tries, all but one of them converted, leaving Italy coach Conor O'Shea to scrape up some positives from his home debut.
"We're very competitive people, we don't like losing," O'Shea said. "What we're trying to do is build a team which will play for 80 minutes and last for 80 minutes.
"We saw a team that were working, that weren't hanging their heads ... that was an incredibly courageous performance against a great side. A lot of mistakes I know, but I look at the courage of the players. If that's our starting point we will go far."
The Azzurri couldn't cope with New Zealand's pace and power, but replacement Tommaso Boni managed a consolation try 13 minutes from time, in only his second appearance.
New Zealand made 12 changes to the run-on side, making it youthful and relatively inexperienced. Two players made their debut. Coach Steve Hansen said some played their way into next week's rematch against Ireland.
"It bodes well for next week," Hansen said. "Better still, it bodes well for the future, for next year and beyond."
It took just four minutes for New Zealand to score its first try as, following a five-meter scrum, flyhalf Aaron Cruden and winger Israel Dagg combined to put center Malakai Fekitoa through a hole, and in.
Italy went close to a try following a 40-meter break by Edoardo Padovani. Moments later, All Blacks lock Scott Barrett was penalized for offside, and Italy took the three points.
The All Blacks were offloading the ball at almost every opportunity, and their second try came from a wonderful short pass from Barrett to prop Charlie Faumuina, who forced it over.
New Zealand had an 18-point lead with less than 21 minutes on the clock after a rolling maul was brought down just short of the line, but lock Patrick Tuipulotu barged his way over out wide.
Minutes later, center Anton Lienert-Brown offloaded to Dagg, who broke from the 22-meter line, sprinting clear of Padovani.
Wyatt Crockett extended his world record of consecutive test wins to 44, and the prop marked the occasion with New Zealand's fourth try shortly before halftime, from a scrum.
Five minutes after the break, flanker Elliot Dixon raced 40 meters down the right flank before offloading to No. 8 Steven Luatua for another five-pointer.
Fekitoa scored his second try collecting Crockett's pass and running it in unchallenged from 20 meters out.
Dixon collected a loose ball after Matt Todd was hauled down inches from the line and dove over in the left corner an hour in. Lima Sopoaga, who had just replaced Cruden, saw his conversion come back off the inside of the right post to leave the score at 54-3.
The sell-out crowd of more than 60,000 finally had something local to cheer for in the 67th minute when Edoardo Gori intercepted a loose pass and offloaded to Boni, who sprinted 50 meters down the right to score Italy's only try.
Tommaso Allan converted, but debutant Rieko Ioane and Waisake Nahalo added two more tries inside the final eight minutes with Sopoaga making no mistake from the spot.