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Unconvincing All Blacks too strong for Italy

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New Zealand comfortably beat Italy 27-6  in a one off international at the AMI stadium in Christchurch.

 

New Zealand’s previous lowest score against Italy was 31.

 

Against their weakest opposition of the year, the All Blacks were looking for a sound performance to show they had put behind them the uninspiring efforts in their drawn series against France earlier in the month.

 

Instead, the world’s top ranked side produced an effort filled with handling errors, misdirected kicks and ineffective tackles against the 12th ranked side who have now lost their past 11 internationals.

 

At half-time the All Blacks led 13-3 before Ross, who was instrumental in providing for Joe Rocokoko’s first-half try, was the central figure in setting up two in the second-half and scoring one.

 

The giant lock also showed the Italian back line was not as intimidating as it had been made to appear when he side-stepped his way past six defenders in a 30-metre run that resulted in George Whitelock’s try.

 

Luke McAlister, starting a Test for the first time in nearly two years, added a further 12 points with the boot while Luke McLean kicked two penalties for Italy.

 

But the experiment of converting regular midfielder McAlister into a fly-half was not successful as the pivot was one of the leading offenders while the All Blacks’ execution fell short of their expected standard.

 

The worry lines were evident on coach Graham Henry’s face, with his squad for the far more demanding Tri-Nations series to be named next week.

 

Led by captain and world class backrower Sergio Parisse and veteran lock and former captain Marco Bortolami, the Italian forwards refused to buckle before the All Blacks.

 

Their effective halves combination of Tito Tebaldi and Craig Gower also frequently pinned the home side inside their own 22 with pinpoint kicking in the second half.

 

McAlister, after a rocky start in which he failed with an early penalty, compensated in part with a 43-metre penalty in the 10th minute to open the scoring.

 

Then a raking touch finder by the fly-half drove the All Blacks deep into Italian territory where Ross stole the lineout and McAlister’s cross-kick found Rocokoko who touched down in the corner.

 

McAlister added the conversion and another penalty to put the All Blacks up 13-0 before McLean got Italy on the board after the All Blacks were penalised scrambling to defend when Gonzalo Canale broke through the middle.

 

Kieran Read appeared to have scored early in the second half only to have the try disallowed when Lelia Masaga, who had chipped the ball over the line, was punished for pushing McLean out of the way in the race for the ball.

 

A frustrated Henry then made wholesale changes, bringing on flanker Whitelock and prop Owen Franks for their Test debuts along with halfback Piri Weepu.

 

The initial impact was for Italy to strike back with a second McLean penalty, only for Ross to reply immediately when he started and finished a move that ended with at try under the posts.

Ross then sidestepped his way through the Italian pack on a 30-metre run that resulted in a try for Whitelock.

 

Italy, who arrived in New Zealand after losing back-to-back Tests in Australia, have now lost all 11 internationals they have played against New Zealand.

 

Final Score New Zealand 27 Italy 6

 

Scorers

 

New Zealand

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