NZ crush Italian hopes with 96-17 thrashing - RTHK
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NZ crush Italian hopes with 96-17 thrashing

2023-09-30 HKT 11:17
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  • New Zealand's Will Jordan reacts after scoring a try against Italy in Lyon. Photo: AP
    New Zealand's Will Jordan reacts after scoring a try against Italy in Lyon. Photo: AP
Scrum-half Aaron Smith scored a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand laid down a statement of intent with a 96-17 blitzing of a hapless Italy at the Rugby World Cup on Friday.

Captain Ardie Savea, wing Will Jordan and replacement hooker Dane Coles scored two each in the 14-try Pool A rout in Lyon as New Zealand, for whom Sam Whitelock earned a record 149th cap, stayed on course for a likely quarter-final against Ireland.

Mark Telea, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali'i, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown scored the other tries while Richie Mo'unga kicked nine conversions and McKenzie another four.

Outclassed Italy crossed twice through wingers Ange Capuozzo and Monty Ioane but this was a one-way demolition job.

It was New Zealand's second largest win over Italy after a 101-3 pummelling in the 1999 World Cup.

Having lost to France in their opening Pool A match, New Zealand have now racked up 25 tries and 167 points in victories over Namibia and Italy, with Uruguay to come next week.

It was clear which way the wind was blowing from each side's first passage of possession.

Italy crept forward before they were turned over.

New Zealand gobbled up metres, pinned Italy back and took the lead after a sublime crossfield kick from Jordie Barrett picked out Jordan to dive over acrobatically in the corner.

Italy full-back Tommaso Allan cut the deficit with a penalty but any suspense was soon crushed by a rampant All Blacks.

First, their pack drove over a maul from short range with Smith dotting down at the back and then they scored one of the tries of the tournament, going almost the full length of the field.

Savea broke the defensive line from a deft Retallick offload and although he was caught, New Zealand recycled the ball against a scrambling defence and Beauden Barrett popped it off to Telea to spin, step and twist past four defenders to score.

New Zealand were ruthless and after kicking another penalty to the corner a simple line-out move saw Savea charge over against an impotent defence.

Just 22 minutes into the match and New Zealand already had the try bonus while Italy were shellshocked, punished for every mistake and every missed tackle.

Dominating up front and scintillating in the three-quarters, it was already looking like a New Zealand performance for the ages.

New Zealand had won all 15 of the previous Tests between the two teams and by an average score of more than 50 points.

It was all too easy and they almost got that by half-time.

New Zealand kicked another penalty to the corner and from the line-out catch-and-drive, Smith darted down the blindside to score.

The pressure was relentless and a perfectly-timed pass from fly-half Mo'unga sent Jordie Barrett through with Smith, as ever, on his shoulder to complete his hat-trick under the posts.

The All Blacks were merciless, even playing on beyond the 40 minutes, kicking a series of penalties to touch until Savea barged over for a seventh try of an utterly one-sided first half that ended 49-3.

Italy showed some pride after the break and a fine move off a line-out saw Capuozzo dive over into the corner.

But then the rout continued.

New Zealand replied instantly as Scott Barrett charged down a clearance and Retallick was on hand to burrow over.

From one of numerous line-outs Italy lost, flanker Papali'i stormed over.

New Zealand showed Italy how to secure a line-out, and sent Coles down the blindside to score.

Italy were totally demoralised and New Zealand seemed to score with every possession.

McKenzie came on to repace Mo'unga and got himself on the scoreboard, with Jordan and Coles going over again soon before Lienert-Brown rounded off the All Blacks scoring.

There was still time, however, for Monty Ioane to get his name on the scoresheet for a bruised and battered Italy. (AFP)

NZ crush Italian hopes with 96-17 thrashing