Coles on a roll in All Blacks victory
Hooker Dane Coles scored four tries, three off the back of the rolling maul, as the All Blacks saw off a spirited Fiji side 57-23 in an entertaining test in Dunedin on Saturday.
The All Blacks were expecting a much stiffer contest than in their 102-0 romp against a weakened Tonga side last week, and the Fijians delivered with a physical challenge their hosts struggled to contain at times.
While a home win never really looked in doubt, five-pointers for the Fijians from Albert Tuisue and Mesulame Kunavula as well as a penalty try will give New Zealand coach Ian Foster much to ponder ahead of next week’s second test in Hamilton.
“I’m pretty pleased really. They offered a pretty stern challenge.
“We said at the start of the week they’ve got lot of players who are pretty experienced, particularly from overseas and European clubs, who have come together.
“They showed they are great athletes and obviously had moments in that game where they put us under quite a bit of pressure.
“But overall pleased with the way we came through that. It highlighted a few areas we’re obviously going to have to tidy up a little bit, but I guess the composure to come back and win by nine tries against a team that chucked everything at us was pretty pleasing.”
While the end result was comfortable Fiji had cut the All Blacks lead to 31-23 at one point, and they dominated periods of the game, particularly the contest at the breakdown, and Foster said his team must improve in that area.
That frustrated the All Blacks’ ability to play with tempo, and Foster indicated that the All Blacks’ lack of effective carries was a factor.
“I’m not sure it was physicality, there are couple of variables at the breakdown.
“You’ve got look at your ball carrier and was he doing enough. The speed of the cleaners versus the height they were able to get over the ball.
“It was an area they targeted to slow it down. There was obviously a high penalty count in that position.
“But if we want to play at the tempo we want, we have to improve in that space.”
The All Blacks ran in nine tries in total – three in the last 15 minutes as their opponents tired – but still posted their lowest tally in six tests against the Fijians going back to 1987.
“Fiji brought a lot of intensity and probably showed us an intensity we needed to (match) in the second half,” said New Zealand skipper Aaron Smith.
“We knew it was going to be a different beast this week. They’ve got some quality players and I think both teams will take a lot out of this. Bring on next week, it’s going to be awesome.”
The All Blacks led 21-6 at the end of the first quarter after fullback Jordie Barrett opened their account and David Havili marked his return to test rugby with two tries from second five-eighth.
The Fijians, inspired by Europe-based flanker Johnny Dyer and skipper Levani Botia, then stepped up a gear and started dominating the tackle area.
They got their reward when No.8 Albert Tuisue crashed over for a try in the 28th minute after a catch-and-drive, and were trailing only 21-11 at halftime.
Winger George Bridge crossed for New Zealand’s fifth try four minutes into the second half but flanker Mesulame Kunavula quickly responded for the visitors after a trick play from another attacking lineout.
Fiji fullback Kini Murimurivalu was yellow carded for a ruck infringement in the 52nd minute and the All Blacks immediately rolled a maul over the try line with Coles coming up with the ball.
The Fijians hit back again just after the hour mark when New Zealand brought down their rolling maul close to the line and the referee awarded a penalty try and sent Havili to the sin bin.
In the last 15 minutes, Coles rode the New Zealand maul to two more tries and grabbed another at the end of a flowing move, while replacement back Will Jordan added another to his test tally after crossing five times last week against Tonga.
We are now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TechiUpdate) and stay updated with the latest Technology headlines.
For all the latest Sports News Click Here