Daniel Carter's left boot underlined why the fly-half will be so valuable at this year's World Cup when he slotted 20 points to give the All Blacks a tense 25-16 victory over Samoa in their first visit to Apia on Wednesday.
Carter's successful goal-kicking allowed the All Blacks to build scoreboard pressure in a tight first half before he produced a pinpoint cross-kick for winger George Moala to score a try on debut to open a 19-3 lead after half-time.
Samoa fly-half Tusi Pisi slotted nine points for the home side, who put the All Blacks under pressure in the second half to get back to 22-16 after Alafoti Fa'osiliva's try following two storming runs up the middle of the park.
Carter, however, slotted his sixth penalty with five minutes remaining to give the 2011 world champions their narrowest victory over Samoa in six matches.
"I'm not sure words can justify the type of match it was," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said in a pitchside interview.
"I will say to the Manu Samoa team, the way you played that's what true test match rugby is all about and we said before we came that was what we'd get.
"And that's what you boys did."
The All Blacks had scored 50 or more points in four of their five previous games against Samoa, including a 101-14 thumping in their most recent match in New Plymouth in 2008.
The home side, however, capitalised on New Zealand's typical slow start to a test season, with the All Blacks combinations appearing rusty and timing off kilter.
New Zealand's work at the back of the breakdown was also sloppy while the delay in delivery allowed the Samoan defence to put pressure on the first-up runners, midfield and outside backs and not give them any time to attack.
Despite creating numerous chances in the first half, Carter kept the scoreboard ticking as he slotted four penalty goals, while Pisi landed a long-range shot.
Moala scored his try when he latched on to Carter's kick, giving his side a 16-point advantage before Pisi brought the hosts back into the game with two successful penalties.
The All Blacks' pack then exerted pressure on the Samoan scrum, causing it to collapse and allowing Carter an opportunity to extend the lead with a 50-metre penalty.
Fa'osiliva's try, however, brought the capacity crowd of 8,104 into the match and it was not until another poor scrum earned another New Zealand penalty, which Carter slotted with five minutes remaining, that the visitors could feel safe.
Samoa winger Alesana Tuilagi lamented the narrow loss but was pleased the All Blacks had finally made the trip to play their first test in the Pacific Islands.
"Thanks to Richie McCaw and the number one team in the world," Tuilagi said.
"I hope this is the start of a campaign where you come back. And we try again. And again. And again."
At the Sept. 18-Oct. 31 World Cup in England, New Zealand will launch the defence of their title with a Pool C encounter against Argentina at Wembley. Tonga, Georgia and Namibia are the other teams in the group.
Samoa have been drawn in Pool B alongside South Africa, Scotland, Japan and the United States.