The High Five: All Blacks vs Samoa

Diggercane Roar Guru

By Diggercane, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (80)

    • June 17th 2017 @ 4:26am
      riddler said | June 17th 2017 @ 4:26am | ! Report

      cheers digger.. as always your journalistic skills are greatly appreciated..

      just read your match wrap and this..

      missed the game.. to be honest didn’t even know it was on till clicked on planetrugby at lunchtime and saw the headline..

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 1:57pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        Thanks riddler, much appreciated

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2017 @ 4:54am
      taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 4:54am | ! Report

      Nice call re Ardie covering the back three Digger, does mean two would have to play 80 so I think we’ll still need two loosies on the bench.

      Probably too easy to get carried away with specifics from this match as Samoa are notorious for poor performances in NZ vs the ABs, but it was a great form check on guys like Smith, Dagg and Kaino, recent injuries, ALB who’s been fairly quiet at Super level.

      Still think Naholos gotta come back in so Dagg to the bench? Don’t get the calls for TJP to start. Their current combination is probably the best two 9’s we’ve ever had so I wouldn’t mess with that,

      • June 17th 2017 @ 6:22am
        moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 6:22am | ! Report

        I’d prefer to see that same back 3 next Saturday.We know with a fair degree of certainty what we are going to get from the Lions–and it doesn’t feature a whole lot of ball getting past Conor Murray’s boot.
        Not only is Dagg more secure under the high ball–his linking/support play is excellent as is the relieving quality of his own boot.
        Dagg and Smith are fairly similar as are Naholo and Savea,It’s just a question of finding the right recipe isn’t it?

        Digger; Regarding the impact of the bench…I think Lima Sopoaga might have rejuvenated his reputation somewhat as well…if it was tarnished by his mid-week display.
        I was impressed with Jerome Kaino’s conditioning…didn’t expect him to last the 58 odd minutes he did.What an engine.The same can be said for Brodie Retallick.He is immense!

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2017 @ 7:14am
          taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

          Yeah I’m not sure which I’d prefer, Naholo is more recent and I think Hansen let him play for the Highlanders to give Smith and Dagg match time, and was always going to bring him back as the incumbent.

          Dagg can easily cover both wing and Fullback so is the better bench option. Either way we gave very good options, and getting better with the returning players, midfield is still the weakness if there is one.

          • June 17th 2017 @ 8:04am
            moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

            I just wrote you an epic reply and it disappeared into the ether when I clicked “Add Comment”.
            I will try again but a truncated version.Maybe.
            If Dagg starts then WN might drop from the 23 altogether; harsh but practical. Other bench options need to be more versatile.
            Eyes will be on Reiko Ioane tonight because he and J Barrett ( aka ‘Jodie’) will be contenders for that outside back benchwarmer pozzie.One covers centre and wing and the other 2nd five and fullback obviously.With the versatility that B Smith and BB possess there is an abundance of juggle-room in the back division so little is lost if either is selected.

            One aspect that may tilt the equation in J Barrett’s favour is goal-kicking. Whilst his brother put up a vastly improved show last night…and alleviated concerns a tiny bit…the conservative side of me would still like to see some reserve kicker in the mix.I guess that is not so vital if Lima Sopoaga is on the pine but later in the series if and when Cruden comes back…Jodie might get the nod for that reason alone.

            Midfield.Crotty starts every day of the week in my book.ALB at 13 and Crotty inside him.Williams benched.
            That creates an issue of it’s own.If Perenara and Sopoaga are a given, will the selectors go for a 5-3 split and therefore the third back on the bench becomes even more interesting.
            Is it a shootout between SBW and the two rookies? Hmmmmm.

            • June 17th 2017 @ 8:16am
              Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

              Hey MM and TM what were your views on the decipline especially in relation to the breakdown?

              • June 17th 2017 @ 9:49am
                moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

                Thought the discipline was excellent . I was keeping a beady eye on the scrums especially with Raynal reffing…thought the ABs had obviously learnt some lessons from the Crusaders’ fiasco.
                I like seeing NZ teams prepared to counter-ruck and I thought there were a couple of instances last night where this paid off.
                All in all a really good workout.
                Felt for the Samoan boys…they were so strong in the opening 20 it seemed harsh to lose by nearly 80!

              • June 17th 2017 @ 11:07am
                Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report


                I thought Raynal improved dramatically. Most notably communication was there, and he was clear about what he wanted in most aspects of the game.

            • Roar Guru

              June 17th 2017 @ 8:46am
              taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

              Sapoaga covers goalkicking and 10 and last night he looked ok, except for the two misses.

              I just think you’ve gotta gone with your best players for the position first and Naholo is the best wing outside Savea.

              Dagg, J Barrett, SBW, Reiko are for me fighting for the third bench spot with a TJP and Sapoaga nailed on the other two spots. That’s assuming Crotty and ALB start.

              Hansen will want five forwards on the bench given the Lions like focus on the forwards running the game.

              If Crotty doesn’t start I think SBW starts, just a feeling about Hansen, and SBWs ability to rise to the occasion, but he needs to sort that defence or have someone like Cane or Read back his defence up.

              Agree on Reiko needing to make his mark tonight and perhaps even Nehe Milner S could be a bolter. He’ll be concerned he hasn’t showed enough and he’s genuine class when he does.

              It’s all conjecture but the fact that Hansen has so many appealing options just leaves him with nice problems.

              • June 17th 2017 @ 9:51am
                moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

                Seems like we are on the same page mate -except about Naholo v Dagg.
                Think NMS would need to provide something huge to make his way in–especially since he isn’t in the squad!

              • Roar Guru

                June 17th 2017 @ 10:19am
                taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

                Oh true forgot about that. With Naholo I’m just going on Hansen’s track record in selecting his side.

                I think he broke his own rule to slow Naholo to play as he wanted to get a look at Dagg. Dagg played well but so did Naholo in scoring a try through the Lions fairly easily and has done everything right.

                Plus should Hansen go with Dagg it could look like a backward step. Surely our players are getting better and worth investing more in?

                Plus he could walk. Is he under contract long term?

              • June 17th 2017 @ 12:12pm
                Darwin Stubbie said | June 17th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

                You’re wrong on at least one point … Cruden will make the 23

              • Roar Guru

                June 17th 2017 @ 12:29pm
                taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

                Yes I probably am, is Crudes in the squad? I personally thought he should start. But then Barrett has a blinder. Whether he will against a tight marking side is the question. Chiefs and Saders have subdued him this year.

                Imagine having Barrett, SBW, A Savea, Perenara, Faumuina off the bench again. If it ain’t over by then it soon will be.

              • June 17th 2017 @ 12:54pm
                moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

                You know that I am a Cruden fan.But he doesn’t make the 1st Test imo due to a) his knee injury ( no sense rushing him back when another week might help, though I haven’t heard anything since he was reportedly “running in a straight line”) and the fact that I reckon a proven backup kicker ( Sopoaga) is vital.

              • June 18th 2017 @ 3:34pm
                Cuw said | June 18th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                @ taylorman

                given the kicking strategy of BILs Dagg will start – or i will generalize and say 2 full back will start . i think it was against Ireland in US that they had one full back and got stuffed , so…

                Crotty is the best defensive center in NZ , without him at least in the first 20 or so minutes, the Samoans ran right thru. He will be one of the first names in the sheet – when fully fit.

                So SBW will probably be the super sub.

                i am not convinced Savea can be an 8 against a better 8 , but a temp cover for sure. another super sub to cover the 3rd row.

                JB will probably be groomed to take over from Smith and Dagg at 15. given NMS is in hospital half the year.

                i also thought kaino played well within himself – coming back aftr injury , but Scot |barrett looked ready for a fight 🙂

          • June 17th 2017 @ 8:11am
            Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

            Hey TM A couple of bombs Savea was left in no mans land jumping in the air some 5 metres away from ball. On A Savea Digger it can’t be too long till he is a regular in the starting team somewhere in the backrow, he is definetley an 80 minute player imo. He was visiably connected to most rucks in defence and must be making it very hard to leave out of the starting 15. As for our centres I can’t help thinking Ngatai and ALB would be our best centre combination, with Ngatai when fit being one of the most complete centres in world rugby. On the bench is that the ultimate separator between the AB’s and the rest of the world it was quite noticable the affect that the subs had on the game. Our lineout seemed to get more dangerous when Whitelock and Kaino came off the field. Which I didn’t think I would say well not in the immediate term. On the Samaon team they started so well controlling the ball gor long time and stressing the AB’s defensive line. They need to look at what they did well and build from there. It was a nice hit out by the AB’s who built themselves into the game so well. The physicality of the AB’s backrow was the highlight for me with S Cane and A Savea doing impressions of Great Whites circling their prey at the breakdown. That was my views on most of your High Five Digger. Thanks once again for a top write up.

            • June 17th 2017 @ 10:55am
              Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

              Sorry about the repeat below. This one just didn’t show up when I wrote it.

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2017 @ 2:27pm
          Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

          Hi Moa,

          Maybe Sopoaga has, still cant see him in front of Cruden personally.

          • June 17th 2017 @ 4:07pm
            moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            Mate–if Cruden was fully fit and firing I would avocate him starting personally….that’s how much I rate him….but the circumstances are different right now.
            Anyway, we will see.I’m not too bothered either way.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 17th 2017 @ 8:25am
        Shane D said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        TM, I believe that Hansen will go with Scott Barrett & Savea on the pine. Looking to use Barrett as lock / 6 cover.

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2017 @ 8:48am
          taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          Yep, and thatbwould be a huge rise for Barrett, first time I really watched him last night. Looks good doesn’t he but it’s still only Samoa, and for that reason I think this is too early for him.

          • June 17th 2017 @ 11:13am
            Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            TM in your opinion what does Ardie have to do to start? The whole impact player just isn’t cutting it, he showed he has 80 minutes of continual pressure in him.

            • Roar Guru

              June 17th 2017 @ 12:20pm
              taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

              I think he’s gotta outplay and outlast either Cane or Kaino. He’s not the number 8 the ABs go for. Read, Rodney S, Z Brooke, Shelford, even T Randall, tall rangy, mobile lineout options.

              I think there’s a potential for ending up with a Hooper type player, a lot of skills but no one perfect position for him. He needs to nail one, and own it.

              Kaino s nearing the end of his career and Ardie is definitely breathing down Canes neck, and may need to show more strings than the dark areas and big D, as it’s Ardie being talked about more and more, and he was awesome last night.

              • June 17th 2017 @ 5:26pm
                Jemainok said | June 17th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                Hear you TM I hope they rest Reid for the first test, and give this backrow another go. Before this game I was all for rushing Reid back, but now I am thinking another week could be benificial for Reid. But Savea is doing everything asked of him. If he brings his athelticism to the lineout he would be the ultimate backrower imo. And I know he doesn’t fit the mould for Hansens 8, but he only made one mistake at the base of the scrum, I don’t see how anyone could say he wasn’t a genuine 8 option after last nights efforts especially what he did in defence. Really interested to hear your thoughts though always quality TM.

            • June 17th 2017 @ 2:43pm
              Jeffrey said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report


              He played well against Samoa. Let’s see him against some of the better teams before we start to get excited. The question mark with Ardie has always been whether he can handle the physicality in a big test match and whether he has the size. Based on his Super form at no 8, the jury is still out imo. Let’s just wait and see.

        • June 17th 2017 @ 9:52am
          moaman said | June 17th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          ShaneD yeah–assuming Read starts.
          Noticed quite a bit of strapping on that hand last night….

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 1:59pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

        Cheers Tman,

        yeah but then we would need our two locks to play 80 as well, not so sure that is a good idea. They are all capable of 80, just depends on what you want from your bench in the end and against the Lions, I suspect another big fella is the way to go.

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2017 @ 5:32am
      Harry Jones said | June 17th 2017 @ 5:32am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 7:52am
        Machooka said | June 17th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 11:56am
        Ralph said | June 17th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        The Lions will be pushing offside lines, with rushing ball and all tackles and flooding the breakdown all night long. I suspect the first to be low scoring and close.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

        Thank you Harry, I like to think highly of myself too. 😉

    • June 17th 2017 @ 6:08am
      Darwin Stubbie said | June 17th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      Filled the gap nicely for Hansen, no injuries and some game time for a couple of players that needed a blowout …. the lions brain trust would have loved to have faced that AB first 20 mins ..

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 7:28am
        taylorman said | June 17th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        Yes true, that’s why the match was there, to shed that first half hour of the year. It might happen next week but probably not for as long, do they’ll be better for it.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

        I agree there Darwin, that first 20 was not flash at all.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 17th 2017 @ 6:39am
      atlas said | June 17th 2017 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      We’ll never know, but how would Samoa have fared v Wales last night? Or Wales v NZ?
      I had high hopes for Tonga, but well done Wales.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Indeed Atlas, lots to ponder, Wales ended up too good in the end, that game seemed to have the worst of the weather too.

    • June 17th 2017 @ 6:51am
      Dsat24 said | June 17th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      No injuries against the Manu is a highlight for mine. Fifita well showed his wares and Kaino showed some readiness for the Lions.

      Was it just me or did anyone get smacked between the eyes with contrast of ABs and WBs first hitouts for 2017. Eesh.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm
        Diggercane said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        Had not really made that comparison at all Dsat, a few more new faces and combos working for the Ozzies though.

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