1000TH ALL BLACK CELEBRATES TEST WIN OVER SAMOA
NEW ZEALAND icon the All Blacks celebrated their 1000th representative Saturday night with a comfortable, yet far from satisfactory, 50-6 victory over Samoa.
Scoring seven tries to none demonstrated the All Black dominance over their opposition but the fact bearded behemoth Carl Hayman's appearance off the bench as replacement tighthead prop was the game highlight - with the big Otago frontrower earning eternal fame as All Black no 1000 - proved the opening test oof 2001 was a far from the titantic struggle tests are renowned for.
Instead the game was more of a testing ground for performances in the lead-up to tougher encounters against the Wallabies and Springbok later in the season. Seen in that light the All Black XV showed first game jitters, making several errors and taking poor options.
Up front - where the winning of hard tests will be found - the black scrum struggled and needs work but the lineout and overall effort from the tight five boded well for the future.
The front five dominance set the platform from which the seven tries - featuring a Tony Brown hatrick and one each to Doug Howlett, Norm Maxwell, Troy Flavell and Jeff Wilson - were engineered.
While it may be expected in the season opener to see teamwork a little out off kilter individuals have to step up in the black jersey no matter who the opposition and in terms of stamping their ownership on their respective positionseveral All Blacks stood out.
Following on from his outstanding game for the Maori last week All Black lock Troy Flavell was superb on both defence and attack. His locking partner Maxwell was also tremendous while Reuben Thorne and Greg Somerville also stood out with big efforts.
In addition to his hatrick Otago 1st five Brown finished with 35 points and had a sensational mistake free game in the pivot's position. His fellow half Byron Kelleher also had a good game and their combination is sure to place pressure on Justin Marshall and Andrew Mehrtens.
In the crucial No 7 jersey Marty Holah was consistently on the ball but he failed to impose himself on the game in the manner of a true world class breakaway. Time will tell but on last night's effort Holah will be found wanting against the likes of Wallaby George Smith and Bok's Andre Venter, Bob Skinstad and Corne Krige.
On the other side the Samoan's tackled hard and gave their all but in the end a team of globe-trotting club players were never going to compete against New Zealand's finest.