By PA Sport Staff
New Zealand lit the touchpaper on their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 14-try hammering of Italy.
Defeat by France had left the All Blacks at risk of missing out on the quarter-finals but there appears no chance of that after a 96-17 romp in Lyon.
Aaron Smith scored a hat-trick of tries in the first half while lock Sam Whitelock came off the bench in the second half to overtake Richie McCaw as the most-capped All Black in Test history with his 149th appearance.
Italy would have dumped New Zealand out of the competition with a win but that never looked remotely on the cards from the moment in the sixth minute when Beauden Barrett launched a perfect cross-field kick for Will Jordan, who performed a leaping touchdown in the corner.
Tommaso Allan got Italy on the board early with a penalty but the rest of the first half was a horror show as Smith crossed three times, Ardie Savea twice and Mark Telea once, with the line-out proving particularly profitable.
Richie Mo’unga converted all seven first-half tries and nine in total, missing only his 10th attempt before being substituted.
Most capped All Black of all-time 🖤 pic.twitter.com/R5Ap6Oq5ru
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 29, 2023
Trailing 49-3 at half-time, Italy came out strongly for the second half and scored their first try in the 48th minute, Ange Capuozzo showing his speed in the corner.
But the All Blacks went straight down the other end and crossed again, Brodie Retallick applying the finish touch after Scott Barrett had charged down an attempted clearance.
Cam Roigard was denied a try after he was deemed to have made a double movement but moments later Dalton Papali’i notched the All Blacks’ ninth score.
They were approaching a century as Dane Coles twice, Damian McKenzie, Jordan and Anton Lienert-Brown all scythed through the Italian defence.
The final word went to Italy through Montanna Ioane’s try but this was emphatically the All Blacks’ night.