New Zealand cruises to 59-10 win against Italy

Italy 10 New Zealand 59
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The Independent Online

New Zealand exploded with three converted tries in the first nine minutes against Italy and cruised to a 59-10 win at Flaminio Stadium yesterday.

New Zealand exploded with three converted tries in the first nine minutes against Italy and cruised to a 59-10 win at Flaminio Stadium yesterday.

Center Conrad Smith and prop Saimone Taumoepeau scored on debut as the All Blacks ran in nine tries en route to their eighth consecutive win against the overmatched Italians.

New Zealand captain and center Tana Umaga, fullback Mils Muliaina and flanker Richie McCaw each picked up two tries, and Daniel Carter gave a good account at flyhalf with a superb solo try and seven conversions from nine attempts.

Flanker Mauro Bergamasco picked up a consolation converted try just before the final whistle, but Italy failed to give the New Zealanders the tough tour-opener they expected.

"The first 20 minutes were pretty devastating for us," said Italy coach and All Black great John Kirwan. "Maybe we had too much respect" for New Zealand.

New Zealand's backline regularly sliced open the Italian defense, notching up five tries and a 35-3 lead at halftime. The All Blacks added four more tries in the second half, but eased up toward the end to leave the scoreline not as resounding as they hoped after an explosive start.

However, All Black coach Graham Henry said he was pleased. "We didn't finish as well as I hoped but I'm satisfied," Henry said. "In the second half we weren't as aggressive with the ball. We tried to keep the ball alive too much instead of going forward."

Umaga said, "We got the victory and that's what we came here for." Italy was 21-0 down after a first-minute try by Smith, then Carter and Muliaina before it turned over the scoreboard in the 17th minute with a penalty from flyhalf Rima Wakarua - one of four New Zealand-born players in the Azzurri lineup.

The All Blacks brought eight new caps to Europe to build for next year's British and Irish Lions tour, and four made their debut on Saturday. Alongside Taumoepeau and Smith, loose forward Steven Bates and scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan made their first appearances as substitutes in the second half.

"For a lot of our guys this is the first game they've played in four or five weeks. They just need time together," Henry said. Carter, who was moved to flyhalf from inside center after All Black veteran Andrew Mehrtens was left out of the tour squad, picked up 19 points, including a stylish try, running onto his own chipped kick over the Italian defense. "We were very pleased with how he played," Henry said. "I don't think he made any mistakes. He passed the ball well, he kicked the ball well, we were very satisfied."

Italy had been hoping to build on a crushing 51-6 win against Canada a week earlier, and put in a performance that would show they are a growing force in world rugby. However, the sold-out home stadium was quickly silenced by the All Blacks' match-opening burst.

New Zealand face Wales next weekend, followed by France and the Barbarians. "There will be a number of changes, but not wholesale changes," Henry said. Italy will meet the United States on Nov. 27.