Namibia become All Blacks’ latest victims in 11-try rout
Namibia’s amateurs and journeymen pros can come away with their heads high
All Blacks’ Jordie Barrett dives over to score his side’s 10th try during the Rugby World Cup clash with Namibia in Tokyo. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Not every inflated Rugby World Cup scoreline tells the full story and this was a prime example. New Zealand may have finished up with 11 tries and a comfortable-looking victory but the final margin did scant justice to the efforts of a spirited Namibia who, for 35 minutes, proved more than a match for their illustrious opponents.
Namibia’s collection of amateurs and journeymen pros - their line-up included farmers, a bank worker and a dentist - did their nation proud, playing with more pace, intent and accuracy than many of their supposed peers. For three and half minutes early on, the lowest-ranked side in the tournament even led the two-time world champions and were still only 10-9 down heading towards half-time.
The All Blacks, in addition, had just lost their prop Nepo Laulala to the sin-bin and when a sore-looking Brodie Retallick also departed the fray prematurely, Steve Hansen’s men were looking genuinely under the cosh.
Fly-half Helarius Kisting had a fine game and the Namibia scrum-half Damian Stevens, possessor of one of the smoothest passes in the tournament, proved equally impressive off the kicking tee, nailing three penalties as the referee Pascal Gauzere showed New Zealand no mercy at the breakdown.
It was fun while it lasted but the tide had to turn eventually. Losing Laulala seemed to galvanise his teammates and a try apiece from replacement Angus Ta’avoa and full-back Ben Smith, added to earlier scores from Seru Reece and Anton Lienert-Brown, saw New Zealand go in 24-9 ahead at the interval.
Despite a second All Blacks yellow card, this time for Ofa Tu’ungafasi, it was one-way traffic thereafter. Smith, Reece and Lienert-Brown all ended up with two tries each and there were further five-pointers for Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock, Jordie Barrett and a flying TJ Perenara as the All Black forwards cranked up the pressure.
Namibia, though, never lay down even after the departure of their hard-tackling captain Johan Deysel, known as ‘Buffy’ to his team-mates because of his reputation for slaying unwary opponents on the field.
On paper the final scoreline looks worse than the 58-14 outcome in this corresponding fixture in London’s Olympic Stadium in 2015, but Namibia made more clean breaks than South Africa managed against the same opposition on the opening weekend. On this evidence, they are an improving side who should run Canada close in their final Pool B fixture on Sunday. – Guardian
Scorers – New Zealand: Tries: Reece 2, Liernert-Brown 2, Taavao-Matau, B. Smith 2, Moody, Whitelock, J. Barrett, Perenara. Cons: J. Barrett 8. Namibia: Pens: Stevens 3.
New Zealand: B. Smith; Reece, Goodhue, Liernert-Brown, Bridge; J. Barrett, A. Smith; Moody, Taylor, Laulala; Retallick, Whitelock; Frizzel, Cane, Savea.
Replacements: Perenara for Reece (66 mins), Ioane for Goodhue (61 mins), Weber for A. Smith (50 mins), Tu’ungafasi for Moody (54 mins), Coles for Taylor (50 mins), Todd for Savea (60 mins). Yellow cards: Laulala (31), Tu’ungafasi (73).
Namibia: Tromp; Klim, Newman, Deysel, Greyling; Kisting, Stevens; Rademeyer, van Jaarsveld, de Klerk; van Lill, Uanivi; Gaoseb, Forbes, Venter.
Replacements: de la Harpe for Deysel (56 mins), du Toit for Greyling (50 mins), Jantjies for Stevens (67 mins), Theron for Rademeyer (76 mins), Coetzee for de Klerk (40 mins), Booysen for Forbes (62 mins).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France).