The Sunday Mail
SUPERB New Zealand scored an incredible 14 tries and hit 96 points against Italy in Pool A on Friday to move to the cusp of the World Cup quarter-finals.
Knowing a defeat would see them eliminated, the All Blacks raced into a pulsating 49-3 half-time lead. They ultimately ran out 96-17 victors with scrum-half Aaron Smith scoring a hat-trick after just 33 minutes.
The All Blacks will guarantee a spot in the knockouts with a win over Uruguay in their final pool match on Thursday.
Italy must beat hosts France in their
next match to reach a first World Cup quarter-final.
The All Blacks’ win sees them jump up to second in Pool A, level on points with Italy, who they now have a superior head-to-head record over.
New Zealand’s place in the knockouts had been in doubt, with their match against Italy essentially a winner-takes-all affair.
But, since their opening day defeat by France — their first-ever World Cup pool-stage loss — the All Blacks have thrashed Namibia 71-3, and have now hit more than 90 points against tier one nation Italy.
It matched the 96 points pool rivals France scored against Namibia on September 21, and was New Zealand’s largest victory at the tournament since they beat Portugal 108-13 in 2007.
Ian Foster’s side started brilliantly as Will Jordan fabulously dived over in the corner, running on to Beauden Barrett’s superb crossfield kick.
Italy struck back with a penalty but Smith, Mark Telea and Ardie Savea all crossed in four frantic minutes to give New Zealand a bonus point and a 28-3 lead after 21 minutes.
And those scores made the result seem inevitable.
Smith crossed twice more for his hat-trick before Savea added his second try to complete the first-half scoring.
After the restart Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Dane Coles and Damian McKenzie all crossed to give the All Blacks a 75-10 lead after 66 minutes.
Jordan and Coles then both added their second scores of the match before Anton Lienert-Brown registered New Zealand’s final try five minutes from time.
The result was a humiliation for Italy, while it re-established New Zealand’s reputation as one of the tournament’s favourites.
Italy were on a four-match winning run and, having brushed aside Namibia and Uruguay already this tournament, would have reached their first World Cup knockout match with a maiden win over the All Blacks.
Instead, they suffered their worst defeat at a World Cup, eclipsing their 76-14 loss to New Zealand in 2007 in Marseille.
They fell apart in the first half, but did manage the first try of the second as Ange Capuozzo crossed in the corner.
And with their opponents chasing a tonne late on, Monty Ioane went over in an otherwise nightmarish display.
The Azzurri face France in their final Pool A match on Friday, while New Zealand take on Uruguay next Thursday. — BBC.