An experimental New Zealand side yesterday recovered from a sticky start and two yellow cards to hammer Namibia 71-9 and move one step closer to finishing at the top of their pool at the Rugby World Cup.
Namibia battled to 10-9 after half an hour before the two-time defending champions New Zealand accelerated away, eclipsing their 58-14 victory over Namibia at the 2015 World Cup.
“First half was pretty disappointing. We didn’t turn up with the right attitude and Namibia made us pay for that,” coach Steve Hansen said. “We had a poor attitude. They had more intent than us and played better than us in the first half. We came out in the second half and sorted that out at halftime, and came out and played well.”
The win put the All Blacks at the top of Pool B after three games, with one more to come against Italy on Saturday.
Namibia are the World Cup’s undisputed whipping boys, after never winning a game in the competition and suffering embarrassing defeats such as 142-0 against Australia in 2003.
The last time that they beat a Tier One nation was Ireland in 1991, but they turned up to play at the Tokyo Stadium and were first on the board through a penalty by Damian Stevens after two minutes.
New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett, in his first start at flyhalf, put in Sevu Reece with an assured cross-field kick just three minutes later, but then missed the conversion.
Anton Lienert-Brown stormed through a gap and fended off two defenders for New Zealand’s second try on 20 minutes, but Barrett scuffed his conversion once again.
All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Stevens, and Brodie Retallick’s comeback after a dislocated shoulder lasted just 30 minutes, as there were uncomfortable moments for the world champions.
However, Angus Ta’avao, minutes after coming on for Sam Cane, dived over for their third try and fullback Ben Smith added a bonus point fourth after the halftime gong to make it 24-9 at the break.
Joe Moody barreled over just a minute after the restart before Barrett created a wonderful try: storming through a gap, exchanging passes with Jack Goodhue and putting Lienert-Brown over in the corner.
Reece grabbed his second try with a trademark injection of pace down the right flank and captain Sam Whitelock added another as the score ballooned to 52-9 after 56 minutes.
Lienert-Brown’s back-of-the-hand offload set up Smith’s second try before Ofa Tuungafasi became New Zealand’s second player in the sin-bin, again for a high tackle.
Barrett rediscovered his kicking boots in the second half, nailing eight conversions and capping a fine all-round performance with a late try as he finished with a personal haul of 21 points.
T.J. Perenara was awarded the All Blacks’ 11th and final try after a lengthy review, just before the gong.
The All Blacks extend their record World Cup winning streak to 17 matches, dating back to the 2007 quarter-finals — while Namibia go to 22 straight defeats, the longest losing run in Rugby World Cup history.
Namibia coach Phil Davies said he was proud of his team, which has “come a long way.”
“The scoreboard is not very pretty at the end, but the effort and the commitment — I’m so proud of the players with how we tried to play,” Davies said.
Also yesterday, it was:
‧ France 23, Tonga 21
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