Mt Smart in Auckland played host to game three of the Rugby League World Cup as New Zealand entered the competition with a tough looking game against the men mountains of Samoa. The bookies favoured the Kiwis but Samoa were very experienced and fancied as outsiders by some pundits.
The last time that the two sides met was two years ago when New Zealand scrapes a 14-12 victory, the last time that the Kiwis played on home soil.
It was a mouthwatering prospect and a big crowd expected a bruiser.
Just three minutes in and New Zealand opened the scoring when Jordan Rapana combined with Shaun Johnson for a spectacular fifty metre try. Johnson failed to convert but the Kiwi nerves had been settled early.
Fists flew on ten minutes but referee Child calmed things down.
On nineteen New Zealand extended their lead with another fifty metre passing try which Johnson completed off a Thomas Leuluai pass after Simon Mannering had originally bust the line. Johnson kicked the conversion for 10-0.
Samoa were back in the game on thirty-six when Ken Maumalo stooped to take a Joseph Leilua pass and go ten metres to dive over in the corner. Peter Mata’utia failed to add the touchline conversion but the margin was back down to one converted try at the interval.
The Kiwis struck early at the start of the second half. Maumalo files to deal with a kick through spilling the ball on his own goal line and Takairangi picked up the loose ball and dabbed it down over the line. Johnson pushed his kick wide right of the upright.
Kodi Nikorima further extended the lead on fifty-one when he got his hand on a pinpoint Johnson grubber as Tonumaipia showed little interest in gleaming his lines. Johnson added the extras to bring up the twenty.
It was becoming a march to victory for the Kiwis on fifty-six when Isaac Liu bust the line from close for the fifth New Zealand try of the night. Johnson again added the extras for 26-4.
There was a long stoppage on sixty-one while Gerard Beale was stretchered from the field after sustaining a non-contact injury.
The try of the game came on sixty-seven when Nikorima broke the line on half way and passed out to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who turned on the pace to go forty-five metres to score. Johnson added the extras for 32-4.
On seventy-one a great second effort from Asofa-Solomona reaches for the line to score from a kneeling position for New Zealand seventh try of the night. Johnson was again accurate with the boot and Samoa were being blitzed.
Joseph Paulo grabbed a late consolation, touching down a low kick through, but the conversion was missed for a final score of 38-8.
This was a comprehensive and professional New Zealand performance against the potential Samoan banana skin. They absorbed the physical onslaught of the islanders and responded with skill and crisp handling to get their campaign off to the best of starts. On this form the Kiwis will give any other side in the competition a run for their money. Samoa, on the other hand, will need to go back to the drawing board.
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck (T), Watene-Zelezniak, Beale, Takariangi (T), Rapana (T), Nikorima (T), Johnson (T, 5G), Taupau, Leuluai, Warea-Hargreaves, Mannering, Tapine, Blair. Subs: Asofa-Solomona (T), Packer, Liu (T), Levi.
Samoa: Tonumaipia, Mata’utia, Lafai, Leilua, Maumalo (T), Joseph Paulo (T), Roberts, Junior Paulo, Tevaga, Lisone, Papalii, Pritchard, Ah Mau. Subs: Godinet, Ese’ese, Matagi, Afoa.
Referee: James Child.