Italy felt the full effect of a New Zealand backlash as the All Blacks strolled to a 68-10 win at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome yesterday.
A reaction was expected from the All Blacks after a shock loss to Ireland last weekend for the first time in 111 years, and the end of an 18-test winning streak.
“We needed to bounce back after falling from All Blacks standards last week,” said captain Sam Cane, pictured. “The way we gelled and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over through 80 minutes was pleasing.”
Italy have never beaten New Zealand, and knew the best they could hope for was damage limitation. The damage was limited to ten tries, all but one of them converted, leaving Italy coach Conor O’Shea to scrape up some positives from his home debut. “We’re very competitive people, we don’t like losing,” O’Shea said. “What we’re trying to do is build a team which will play for 80 minutes and last for 80 minutes.
“We saw a team that were working, that weren’t hanging their heads ... that was an incredibly courageous performance against a great side.”
The Azzurri couldn’t cope with New Zealand’s pace and power, but replacement Tommaso Boni managed a consolation try 13 minutes from time.
Malakai Fekitoa (2), Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Israel Dagg, Wyatt Crockett, Steven Luatua, Elliot Dixon, Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo scored for the All Blacks, with fly-half Aaron Cruden kicking seven conversions and Lima Sopoaga two.
In Paris, Virimi Vakatawa scored a hat-trick of tries for France as they overpowered Samoa 52-8.
Yoann Huget, Charles Ollivon and Gael Fickou also crossed, along with a penalty try, while scrum-half Maxime Machenaud kicked three penalties and two conversions. Baptiste Serin also converted two scores.
Centre Rey Lee-Lo scored Samoa’s only try after the break but it was scant consolation.