OITA, Japan — Refreshed after an 11-day break, New Zealand gave Canada a 63-0 thrashing that was expected in the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday.
The gulf in class between the defending champion All Blacks and the last team to qualify for the tournament was always going to be measured by a high score, and the New Zealanders poured eight tries, plus a penalty try, through a defence that missed 46 tackles.
After a first half that turned messy in humid conditions under the Oita Dome, New Zealand sent on replacement scrumhalf Brad Weber and midfielder Ryan Crotty to tidy up the attack, and they turned it on, being ruthlessly entertaining.
Winger Rieko Ioane, trying to find the form to become a regular starter again, glided in for his 24th try in 27 tests after a Jordie Barrett catch and Sonny Bill Williams break. There followed four more tries in the next 16 minutes for New Zealand to rocket to from 28-0 at halftime to 63-0.
One of the tries went to lock Scott Barrett, who joined his brothers Beauden and Jordie as try-scorers, supplementing their milestone as the second trio of brothers to play in the Rugby World Cup after the Vunipola brothers of Tonga in 1995.
There was no more scoring through the last quarter, but only because the pace the All Blacks were playing at was too quick for even themselves, and passes were knocked on or forward to let the Canadians off the hook.
Dominating almost every category and making most of the running, the All Blacks made 15 handling errors. But they made 24 breaks to Canada’s three, and 94 carries over the gain-line to Canada’s 29.
The All Blacks almost scored inside a minute from the opening kickoff, surging to the posts until the Canadians scrambled to hold up scrumhalf TJ Perenara. It took until the fifth minute for the first try to come as the scrum pushed the Canadians back over their tryline between the posts. But before captain Kieran Read could touch down, Canada scrumhalf Gordon McRorie interfered and the All Blacks received a penalty try.
Jordie Barrett had the honour of the first try, taking a crosskick from flyhalf Richie Mo’unga with no Canadian within 10 metres of him. He just had to catch and fall over.
The impressive Williams almost set up a try for Ioane, then took matters into his own hands with a step off his left foot for the gap, and stretching out to score with Canada hooker Eric Howard on his back. At 21-0 after 17 minutes, the match was going as expected.
Then it went sloppy. A ruck pass by prop Atu Moli surprised flanker Matt Todd, and Canada’s McRorie intercepted. Peter Nelson was almost to the tryline when he was scragged by Beauden Barrett. As the All Blacks scrambled, Read made what appeared to be a no-arms shoulder charge to a Canadian player’s head, the kind of contact which has been heavily penalized by World Rugby at this tournament.
The All Blacks survived but there was a bombed try by Scott Barrett, who dropped the ball over the line and dropped catches. Coach Steve Hansen looked uncomfortable in the stands. Just before halftime, a Williams grubber kick was snatched by Beauden Barrett to score the fourth, bonus-point try. The 28-0 scoreline flattered the Canadians but they would have been pleased it wasn’t worse.
With Weber and Crotty sent in for the second half, normal transmission resumed, and the All Blacks were exhilarating.
There was Williams offloads as usual, Mo’unga’s round-the-corner pass to Read, a Mo’unga jump and take, and a scissors move by Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett to send Weber clear. The All Blacks didn’t make a handling error in the half until the 20th minute.
With time almost up, All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea became the first player in Rugby World Cup history to play with goggles, to protect the sight in his left eye, and he dropped a pass with just grass in front of him.
There was more frustration after fulltime as Canada broke toward the New Zealand tryline but turned over. Beauden Barrett then wriggled into space and was clear to the line, only to drop the ball inexplicably five meters out.
By The Associated Press