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Player Ratings: Ruthless

OPINION: It was back up to Tokyo for the All Blacks, for their second-ever match against Namibia.


With New Zealand ranked first in the world and Namibia a lowly 23rd, there wasn’t much chance of a boilover – but there were still plenty of opportunities for players to boost their standing in the squad for the big matches coming up.

Tom Vinicombe rates the New Zealand players! 

Joe Moody – 7.5

One cog in a hugely dominant scrum – even when down a man. Penalised for slowing down the ball on one Namibian attack, costing his side three points. Busy on defence, showed that mobility that Steve Hansen has always yearned for. Barged over from close range early in the second half for his 4th Test try. Off in 53rd minute.

Codie Taylor – 7

Great kick-chase late in the second half to make a clutch tackle and earn the All Blacks a lineout. Safe in the lineouts and dangerous when lurking out wide. Off in 51st minute.

Nepo Laulala – 2

Yellow card for a dangerous (not to mention pointless) tackle. Was relieved (and maybe lucky) to not get a red. Didn’t return even after his 10 minutes was up.

Brodie Retallick – 6

Hardly looked like he’d been absent for so long, but there’ll be tougher tasks ahead. Off in 32nd minute but was top of the tackle charts when he was pulled. A satisfactory return for the big man, but will obviously need to be able to churn out more than 30 minutes per match moving forward.

5 Sam Whitelock – 7.5

Tidy game from the match-day captain. Dotted down for a rare try – his previous coming in 2012. Busy on defence, carried regularly and frustrated the Namibian forwards at the breakdown.

Shannon Frizell – 8

Continued his strong carrying from the Canada match earlier in the week. Made a couple of momentum-halting hits in defence too. The All Blacks’ top tackler. Might have gained the upper hand over Matt Todd for the bench loose forward role but has had a heavy workload since coming into the squad late.

Sam Cane – 5.5

Made a solid tackle in the 10th minute then was back on his feet to secure a penalty and the next breakdown. Made one of the few line breaks of his career, then coughed up the ball. Off in 32nd minute to allow for another prop to join the fray then re-joined the game after the spell. Unquestionably reliable on defence but never looks like a safe pair of hands. Unlucky not to get a few rewards at the breakdown.

Ardie Savea – 8

Gave the last pass for two New Zealand tries but also looked destructive when he got his leg-drive going. Threw a couple of nice balls to inside runners. No matter what position the All Blacks see as Savea’s best, he needs to be on the field. Off in 62nd minute.

Aaron Smith – 7.5

Kept the Namibians honest and organised the breakdown. Struggled a little bit to begin with thanks to some good Namibian pressure – but that was more on the All Blacks’ forwards than Smith. Bullet pass to namesake Ben created the All Blacks’ bonus point try and also gave the last pass to Angus Ta’avao for his score. Off in the 51st minute.

10 Jordie Barrett – 8.5

Perfect cross-field kick to create Sevu Reece’s first try of the match but then coasted somewhat for the rest of the first half. Created opportunities when he challenged the line more after the break – set up a great try from doing exactly that in the 47th minute. Found his goalkicking radar after a couple of wobbly early attempts. Has all the raw attributes to play at 10 – could the Hurricane employ him there next year? Switched to the right wing for the final chunk of the game.

11 George Bridge – 6

Did well to chase down his opposite number in the 27th minute and prevent a try. Play didn’t run his way and he didn’t get as involved around the field as he normally would. Still clocked up over 100 metres with the ball in hand.

12 Anton Lienert-Brown – 9

2 tries (20th, 47th minutes), 1 assist (68th minute). Penalised a couple of teams in the first quarter then made up for it with an absolute pearler of a try, beating three defenders on a forty-metre run. Elusive throughout, finds gaps that nobody else can and was regularly called upon to test the Namibian defence. Skipped out of a weak tackle to dot down soon after the break. Mixed up his game with a fairly well-weighted cross-field kick in the second half, but maybe wasn’t the right option. To top it all off, topped the tackling charts in the backs.

13 Jack Goodhue – 6.5

Safe in the midfield, did everything that was asked of him. Used more as straightener than a deceiver. Is he dynamic enough to usurp Anton Lienert-Brown or Sonny Bill Williams, or reliable enough to overtake Ryan Crotty? The gut says no. Off in 62nd minute.

14 Sevu Reece – 7

Always looked threatening with ball in hand. Sidestepped around his opposite man to score the All Blacks’ first try then did something similar in the second half for his second. Off in 67th minute.

15 Ben Smith – 7.5

Popped up at first receiver more often than in the past, as is now the All Blacks way. Scored a well-taken try four minutes after the halftime gong had sounded then burst through the line for a second later in the game. Still behind Beauden Barrett in the pecking order, and may struggle for a bench spot.


16 Dane Coles – 6

On in 51t minute. Ran one excellent line and generally carried on where Taylor left off.

17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 3

On in 53rd minute. Took a leaf out of Laulala’s books and was yellow-carded for a dangerous (and only slightly less stupid) tackle in the 73rd minute.

18 Angus Ta’avao – 7

On in 32nd minute to cover for Laulala’s sin bin. Dived over for the All Blacks’ third try just minutes later. Got through a mountain of work, carrying regularly and making seven tackles.

19 Patrick Tuipulotu – 6.5

On in 32nd minute. Still not quite at the level he showed against the Wallabies earlier in the year, but threw himself into the breakdowns and didn’t shy away from tackles.

20 Matt Todd – 6

On in 62nd minute. Great run down the left flank in the 67th minute created Ben Smith’s second try of the match. Was regularly on hand in support but wasn’t always given the ball at the right times.

21 Brad Weber – 7.5

On in 51st minute. Tidy, added zip. Highlight was a behind the back pass to TJ Perenara to create the match of the tournament to date.

22 TJ Perenara – 8

On in 67th minute. Joined the fray at first five and popped a nice short pass to Jordie Barrett for the All Blacks’ tenth try. Made an excellent line break moments later then dotted down for an absolutely brilliant try in the same passage off an audacious pass from Brad Weber. Maybe not quite as reliable a halfback as Weber, but has a bit more utility.

23 Rieko Ioane – 7.5

On in 62nd minute – played at centre after also finishing the game there against Canada. Looked interested, ran hard, passed well and put in a dinky kick-pass too. A genuine option on the bench thanks to his ability to cover the midfield but hard to see him taking the place of one of the specialists.

By Tom Vinicombe, Rugbypass

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