The High Five: All Blacks vs Samoa

Diggercane Roar Guru

By , Diggercane is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    The All Blacks have completed a comprehensive win over Samoa at Eden Park by 78 points to 0, to hit the ground running in the start to their 2017 season.

    They will feel relatively happy with their performance in their only match before the first Lions Test just a week away.

    Nil is the right pill
    While many would have been thrilled with some of the attacking play from the All Blacks and the dominance of the set piece, it was the defence that is perhaps the most pleasing aspect. They held out Samoa with a solid defensive effort, withstanding early attacks early in the match and still having the hunger throughout to stall the Samoan attack, applying pressure throughout, feasting on turnovers and set piece.

    It was incredibly encouraging to see the All Blacks start to gather cohesion so quickly in such a key area.

    Ardie at 8
    It was an intriguing aspect to see how Ardie Savea performed at eight in Kieran Read’s absence. For the most part, he performed very well, always working hard with ball in hand and in support. He was rewarded with a couple of tries and defence was typically physical. There were a few stutters at the back of the scrum but otherwise a fairly successful ‘experiment’.

    Coach Steve Hansen was remarking after the game that he was happy with his performance but that he doesn’t view Savea as a true number 8.

    I suppose we can take from his performance and Hansens comments that Savea will be seen as quality bench cover across the entire back row, hinting that perhaps the All Blacks will take a specialist lock on the bench, as opposed to two loose forwards.

    SBW and ALB the midfield combo?
    It is a nightmare for opposition defences to contend with Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown, both able to step, bust, free the hands, offload, they can create so much as individuals let alone working in tandem. They are a constant menace for the Samoan defence while on defence, some early jitters overcome as they started to form a cohesive unit as the match wore on.

    With Ryan Crotty expected to be available for the Lions series, it is an interesting predicament for the All Black Coaches to ponder. There is certainly a security that Crotty offers in decision making and defence and he still seems to be many punters favourite to start with Lienert-Brown but Williams offers a significant point of difference on attack and that ability to break a game open may just sway the men in charge come next Saturday night.

    The All Black bench is still one of their greatest strengths
    The greatness of New Zealand’s depth again rang true as they all made a positive impact. It was pleasing from an All Black point of view that several of the changes were for highly experienced personal, yet they were able to keep up the standard of play and perhaps enhance the performance.

    They raised the bar higher as the match wore on and at a pace that the Samoans simply could not match.

    Scott Barrett was particularly impressive coming on in the second half, contributing heavily across the park while the coaching staff will be pleased with the added impetus of TJ Perenara, replacing the fine work of Aaron Smith at halfback to continue the All Blacks momentum and ruthlessly drive the nail home to close out the match.

    The difficulties of international rugby
    This was a quality Samoan side on paper but they were in many ways on a hiding to nothing, having to literally assemble their side from four corners of the globe.

    To their credit, they did so for a time before the All Blacks pulled away.

    Still, there will be plenty for the Samoan coaching staff to be pleased with despite the heavy score line as they build into their 2017 season. The early stages showing good structure and perhaps a more composed start at the beginning and a few more points may have kept them in the contest longer.

    Certainly it would be great to see a match played against Samoa where the Island nation is provided more preparation time inside the June window.

    So there are some talking points from the All Blacks first match of 2017 as we all now look to focus on the Lions as they take on the Maori in Rotorua with what appears to be close to their likely Test side and gauge how they are travelling with a view to this massive series on the horizon.

    A Rotundity and happy ex hooker who just loves Rugby really, oh and my kids and Kendra of course who lets me watch as much Rugby as I want, mostly. Follow Digby Ross on Twitter @Diggercane.