New Zealand 96 Italy 17
There mightn’t be as many gung-ho conversations about preferring to face New Zealand rather than France in a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal after the All Blacks ran in 14 tries but to be honest it’s hard to evaluate the performance because Italy were dire. There’s no other word for it.
New Zealand’s mettle was questioned ahead of this match and they responded with authority, a relentless efficiency underpinned a lovely amalgam of forward power, slick interplay and ruthless execution. But it was a bleak night for Italian rugby. No one could have seen this coming.
It was hard to contextualise New Zealand’s performance, they were clinical, powerful in the set piece, easy on the eye with some of their attacking patterns but all of this comes with a rider; the Italians were abject, so out of character for the way they have played under Kieran Crowley.
Italy were dominated in the scrum, couldn’t defend a lineout maul, lost several throws on their ball, gave away a barrelful of penalties, were disconnected in defence and brittle in the tackle.
The All Blacks did as they pleased without having to overtly exert themselves in going through multiple phase play. Dalton Papalli’i, Shannon Frizell, bossed the breakdown, the excellent Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett toiled productively, while the backline, individually and collectively had the measure of their opponents.
The opening throes hinted at a lively contest as both teams explored the full expanse of the pitch, the Italians getting to the edge and their opponents 22 first, but the All Blacks turned over possession and ended up with a scrum 20 metres from the Italians line. Talk about a misnomer.
Italy survived the initial onslaught until Beauden Barrett spotted Will Jordan lurking on the touchline with a pinpoint, low flighted cross-kick; the finish was even better, acrobatic eloquence. Richie Mo’unga’s touchline conversion was a beauty.
The contest required the Italians to respond, Tomasso Allan’s penalty reduced the deficit to 7-3 but it was a brief respite, the All Blacks claiming a second try, a well-constructed lineout maul motored through minimal resistance and scrumhalf Aaron Smith profited positionally to touch down for the try.
An avalanche of points ensued. The next two New Zealand tries were facilitated by some woeful Italian tackling, the first scored by wing Mark Telea, originated in the All Blacks 22 based on a clinical counterattack, and the second, Ardie Savea stepped inside a weak effort to tackle as thundered round the back of a lineout.
Mo’unga converted as he would do again shortly afterwards on 27 minutes, as New Zealand kicked another penalty to the corner, the result of the lineout maul was similar in substance, Smith again the beneficiary, as he broke off and plunged over the line.
At 35-3 the Italians were staring at a thrashing, at 42-3, following Smith’s hat-trick or tries on 35 minutes, created by Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett, a humiliation beckoned in the form of the 101-3 beatdown that the All Blacks meted out in a 1999 World Cup match between the sides.
Italy took a shellacking in every facet of the game. They couldn’t slow down their opponents’ ball at the breakdown, were brittle in the tackle and panicked in giving away a raft of penalties. New Zealand don’t need much altitude at the best of times, but they were given the freedom of Lyon to indulge their prodigious skill sets.
Savea’s second try just before the interval, his team’s seventh, all converted by Mo’unga drew muted applause, more to try and appease Italian sensibilities.
Italy came out after the interval, won four penalties, protected their ball better and were able to punch a few holes in the All Blacks’ defence and on 47 minutes Monty Ioane stood up Akira Ioane, making the crucial insertion that allowed Ange Capuozzo to dive over in the corner. Allan’s conversion allowed the Italians to reach double figures.
As a renaissance though it was short lived and Italy were soon back to their careless ways; a blocked down kick provided a preamble to a try for Retallick and then an overthrown lineout led to New Zealand’s ninth try of the game, this one for Papali’i. Sam Whitelock’s arrival from the bench meant that he became the most capped All Black in history, a brilliant personal milestone.
Replacement hooker Dane Coles slid over in the corner for his team’s 11th – notable for Mo’unga missing his first conversion of the night – and the 11th followed shortly from another of the original bench, Damian McKenzie, who tagged on the conversion to make it 75-10.
From the restart Italy turned over possession and were punished again, Jordan grabbing his second try of the match. McKenzie converted and the fear with 10 minutes left was that the All Blacks would hit the century of points, Coles second try and a first for Anton Leinart-Brown, both converted by McKenzie took them to the threshold at 96-10.
Thankfully Italy were spared that embarrassment, a small mercy, and it was they that had the final say, Monty Ioane diving over in the corner, Paolo Garbisi’s conversion the final act.
Scoring sequence - 7 mins: Jordan try, Mo’unga conversion, 7-0; 9: Garbisi penalty, 7-3; 17: Smith try, Mo’unga conversion, 14-3; 19: Telea try, Mo’unga conversion, 21-3; 21: Savea try, Mo’unga conversion, 28-3; 27: Smith try, Mo’unga conversion, 35-3; 35: Smith try, Mo’unga conversion, 42-3; 40 (+2): Savea try, Mo’unga conversion, 49-3. Half-time: 49-3. 47: Capuozzo try, Allan conversion, 49-10; 49: Retallick try, Mo’unga conversion, 56-10; 55: Papali’i try, Mo’unga conversion, 63-10; 60: Coles try, 68-10; 66: McKenzie try, McKenzie conversion, 75-10; 69: Jordan try, McKenzie conversion, 82-10; 71: Coles, McKenzie conversion, 89-10; 75: Lienart-Brown try, McKenzie conversion, 96-10; 80 (+1): M Ioane try, Garbisi conversion, 96-17.
New Zealand: B Barrett; W Jordan, R Ioane, J Barrett, M Telea; R Mo’unga, A Smith; O Tu’ungafasi, C Taylor, N Laulala; B Retallick, S Barrett; S Frizell, D Papali’i, A Savea (capt). Replacements: S Whitelock for Frizell 47 mins; T Williams for Tu’ungafasi 47 mins; T Lomax for Laulala 47 mins; C Roigard for Smith 50 mins; D Coles for Taylor 57 mins; S Cane for Papali’i 57 mins; D McKenzie for Mo’unga 62 mins; A Leinart-Brown for J Barrett 62 mins.
Italy: T Allan; A Capuozzo, J Ignacio Brex, L Morisi, M Ioane; P Garbisi, S Varney; D Fischetti, G Nicotera, M Riccioni; D Lamb, F Ruzza; S Negri, M Lamaro (capt), L Cannone. Replacements: I Nemer for Fischetti 17 mins; N Cannone for Lamb half-time; S Ferrari for Riccioni 45 mins; M Page-Relo for Varney 47 mins; H Faiva for Nicotera 47 mins; M Zuliani for Negri 49 mins; P Odogwu for Allan 59 mins; T Halafihi for Lamaro 64 mins.
Referee: M Carley (England)