Coles scores four as All Blacks see off impressive Fiji
MATCH REPORT: A rattled All Blacks struggled to put away an under-prepared Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday but four tries by Dane Coles in the second half resulted in a flattering 57-23 scoreline.
In a match the All Blacks were expected to run away with, it was not the performance they wanted and it needed an explosive closing 30 minutes to ensure there would not be a boilover.
Ten minutes into the second half they were hanging on at 26-16.
The All Blacks were fresh from the Super Rugby season and a warm-up match against Tonga, while the Fiji squad flew in from around the world and only emerged this week from their 14 days quarantine after arriving in New Zealand.
While the Fijians had little match practice, they took a physical approach to the game that rocked the All Blacks.
Following their 102-0 victory over Tonga last week, the All Blacks made wholesale changes and arguably fielded a stronger side.
But it was the Fijians, with their bruising, head-on approach who started strongest and were on the board in the fifth minute with a Ben Volavola penalty.
When the Barrett brothers replied with a Jordie try converted by Beauden, Volavola closed the gap to 7-6 with a second penalty.
The All Blacks felt they had opened up a buffer with back-to-back tries by David Havili to lead 21-6 midway through the first half, but then found themselves marched back in a line-out drive from Fiji that produced a try for Albert Tuisue.
A George Bridge try early in the second half put the All Blacks ahead 26-11 but Fiji were continuing to win the forward battle and were not going to give up.
Mesulame Kunavula crashed over to close the gap to 26-16, and when Dane Coles scored the first of his tries, the Fiji forwards stormed back on attack and won a penalty try from a desperately defending All Blacks.
But from there, the All Blacks shut down the game with three more tries to Coles and one to Will Jordan.
Man of the match: Fiji flank Johnny Dyer was incredible at the breakdowns. His captain, Levani Botia, was a big presence in the midfield and made some big tackles in the midfield. All Blacks hooker Dane Coles scored four tries in the second half to help his team pull away from the Fijians. However, the award goes to centre David Havili. Despite getting a yellow card, Havili was excellent in the midfield with his carries. He also scored two of his team’s nine tries and he had a hand in another.
Moment of the match: It was the small victories Fiji had on the field. But the one that really stood out was Mesulame Kunavula’s try in the second half after a well-worked line-out move that caught the All Blacks off guard.
Villain: There were no villains in the match.
For New Zealand:
Tries: J Barrett, Havili 2, Bridge, Coles 4, Jordan
Cons: B Barrett 6
Tries: Tuisue, Kunavula, Penalty Try
Pens: Volavola 2
Yellow cards: Keni Murimurivalu (Fiji, 51 – cynical play); David Havili (New Zealand, 60 – cynical play)
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Ethan Blackadder, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Will Jordan.
Fiji: 15 Keni Murimurivalu, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Levani Botia (captain), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Simioni Kuruvoli, 8 Albet Tuisue, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 6 Johnny Dyer, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: 16 Peni Narisia, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Setareki Tuicuvu, 22 Eneriko Buliruarua, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand) and Jono Bredin (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)
AFP & @rugby365com