TJ Perenara leads the All Black haka (Photo by World Rugby - Handout/World Rugby via Getty Images)
The All Blacks recorded a predictably comfortable win over Namibia today by 71-9 at Tokyo Stadium. However, the performance was marred by two yellow cards to props Nepo Laulala and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Both teams enjoyed what were relatively comfortable playing conditions in Tokyo, after a week of extremely hot weather and humidity in the All Blacks’ last encounter with Canada in Oita. It was an overcast day with the temperature in the low 20’s, so really there were no excuses for dropping the ball.
Much has been made of the discipline issue at the tournament, with five red cards already setting a record for a World Cup. The All Blacks came up with a very simple plan in at first to negate the possibility of that happening - holding onto the ball for they could to avoid having to make any potentially dangerous tackles.
However, while they were rewarded with an early try to Sevu Reece off a Jordie Barrett cross kick, the Namibians were proving to be a tough nut to crack. It took a bit of brilliance by Anton Lienert-Brown in the 20th minute to add to the lead, hitting the line at pace and gassing the last two defenders to score a memorable try.
The Namibians hung in and deserved the three penalty goals that came from the boot of Damien Stevens, and it looked as though they may even take the lead after a strong assault into the 22. That looked even more likely after Nepo Laulala was sin binned for a high shot, but the All Blacks regrouped and strung a good amount of phases together to send Angus Ta’avao over under the posts. Ben Smith finished the half with a try to make the score 24-9.
The All Blacks came out with a purpose in the second half, though, rattling off three quick tries to push the score past the half century mark. The bench then emptied to finish the game, meaning that TJ Perenara played first five as the backline reshuffled.
Tuungafasi then found himself on the wrong side of referee Pascal Gauzere, finishing the game on the naughty chair after his forearm connected with a Namibian player’s head.
Perenara then finished the game with arguably the try of the tournament so far, running onto a behind-the-back pass from Brad Weber to squeeze into the corner.
While it’s obvious that not an awful can be learned about where the All Blacks are at from a game like this, it was good for them to get through with no injuries. Both Laulala and Tuungafasi will probably escape any further action given their high shots were more clumsy than dangerous.
The All Blacks’ final pool game is against Italy next Saturday in Toyota City.
All Blacks 71 (S Reece 2, A Lienert-Brown 2, B Smith 2, A Ta’avao, J Moody, S Whitelock, J Barrett, TJ Perenara tries; J Barrett 8 con)
Namibia 9 (D Stevens 3 pen)
HT: 24-9 All Blacks