New Zealand ran in nine tries, with two each for wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea, as they powered to a 58-14 win over Namibia on Thursday, but the rugged Africans made the reigning world champions work harder than expected.
Victor Vito, Malakai Fekitoa, Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith and Codie Taylor also helped themselves to a try apiece as a second-string All Blacks side made it two wins out of two in Rugby World Cup Pool C.
But the biggest cheer came in the second half when Namibian inside centre Johan Deysel, a university student, showed the strength to stay on his feet despite two tackles and break through for a try.
Namibia, whose line-up includes a dentist, some farmers and a diamond trader, fought bravely to avoid the rout that some had expected in the meeting of the tournament’s top-ranked and lowest-ranked teams.
“It was a very proud performance. We won a couple of small victories during the match which we can take into the next game, particularly to score a try against the best side in the world, who normally give others at times a solid hiding,” Namibian captain Jacques Burger said.
Things had looked ominous when, straight from the kick-off, the All Black forwards ran a huge driving maul from their 22-mere line right up to half way.
Flyhalf Barrett kicked a penalty to open the scoring and a try on each wing — by Vito on the left and Milner-Skudder on the right — had New Zealand 15-0 ahead with just under ten minutes played.
It looked like the opening of the floodgates, but Namibia, tackling like men possessed, had different ideas.
Their nerves were settled when flyhalf Theuns Kotze kicked a penalty to put them on the scoreboard, and they enjoyed several promising attacks after intercepting stray passes as New Zealand showed occasional glimpses of fallibility.
Normal service was resumed when Sonny Bill Williams, tackled by two players, still managed to offload to Malakai Fekitoa for New Zealand try number three under the posts.
Another Kotze penalty and tries from Barrett and Milner-Skudder made it 34-6 at halftime.
In a scrappy second half, New Zealand were frequently frustrated by dogged Namibian defence but added four more tries, helped by the sinbinning of Jaco Engels for cynically knocking the ball out of Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s hands as the All Blacks pressed within metres of the try line.
Milner-Skudder was named man of the match for his weaving runs, brace of tries and a superb offload to set up hooker Taylor for the final try right at the death.
For New Zealand, Barrett kicked five conversions and a penalty to add to his try, while Kotze kicked three penalties for Namibia. New Zealand’s next match in Pool C is against Georgia on October 2, while Namibia face Tonga next Tuesday.