TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Scrumhalf Cam Roigard and flyhalf Damian McKenzie scored two tries each and made a strong bid for first-team roles as New Zealand beat Namibia 71-3 in the Rugby World Cup on Friday.
Roigard had his double inside the first seven minutes of his World Cup debut and provided assists in first-half tries by McKenzie and Leicester Fainga’anuku, and in the second half to David Havili. The All Blacks scored 11 tries in all. McKenzie converted eight for a 26-point haul.
The New Zealand lineup wasn’t second string but featured nine changes from the team which lost to France 27-13 in the first match of the tournament, including the new halves pairing of Roigard and McKenzie. Both may need to be considered at least for bench roles in the All Blacks' top lineup.
Coach Ian Foster wanted set-piece control established and got it. “It's a step forward,” he said.
Roigard showed a sharp nose for opportunities and, despite rain which sometimes was torrential in the first half, McKenzie kept the ball in hand more often than playmakers Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga did against France when poor kicking cost the All Blacks. Aaron Smith replaced Roigard in the 66th minute.
“(Roigard and McKenzie) controlled the game well,” All Blacks captain Ardie Savea said. “Damo (McKenzie) was being normal Damo and finding space and Cam's running game really exploded around the breakdown.”
Roigard, the player of the match, said it was “pretty surreal” to mark his first test start with two tries.
He said he and McKenzie have “had some training reps together and we're starting to work out how we like to play. I know his attacking style suits mine so I really enjoyed it tonight, playing alongside him.”
The All Blacks had a dominant set-piece and scored one of their tries from a tighthead at which they thrust the Namibia pack over its line from a five-meter scrum. New Zealand mostly targeted Brodie Retallick at lineouts, meaning not much was seen of Sam Whitelock, who equaled Richie McCaw’s record of 148 tests for the All Blacks.
It was expected they would outclass their tier two opponent but New Zealand will take heart from the fact they had a strong attacking focus, limited mistakes, and maintained reasonably good discipline until replacement prop Ethan de Groot became the first All Black to be red-carded at a World Cup.
De Groot was sin-binned near the end for a dangerous upright tackle and the card was upgraded to red on review. Foster likened it to the tackle by Romain Taofifenua on Uruguay's Santiago Arata on Thursday, which earned the Frenchman only a yellow.
Namibia's night was spoiled by an apparent broken ankle to midfielder Le Roux Malan from an attempted tackle.
“We feel more disappointed for Le Roux because he left the field so early,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said. “It is a game that every boy dreams of playing in.”
Roigard’s first try came after only 97 seconds when Barrett cross-kicked for Fainga’anuku, who exchanged passes with Havili before handing off to Roigard. He was in again in the seventh minute when the All Blacks crushed the Namibia scrum and he dummied and spun his way over.
In between, McKenzie dived too soon and grounded the ball short of the line, and a try to hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho from a lineout drive also was disallowed.
McKenzie scored his first in the 20th from a quickly tapped penalty and pass from Roigard, and again in the 33rd when Roigard broke from a scrum on halfway and linked with his flyhalf.
Fainga’anuku also took a pass from Roigard and carried four defenders over the line for one of the All Blacks’ six first-half tries. They led 38-3 at halftime.
De Groot ran strongly out wide to score the first try of the second half, 25 seconds after entering the field.
New Zealand's vision, set-piece organisation and support was all on show as more tries were finished by Dalton Papali'i, Havili, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke, and Rieko Ioane.
Namibia scored a try in their last World Cup meeting with the All Blacks but were denied this time.
“New Zealand was incredible tonight, especially in the first half. We couldn't stop them,” captain Johan Deysel said. “I'm proud of the boys. We chased that try but we couldn't get it.”
Namibia has France next, while New Zealand has two weeks off before facing Italy.
AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby