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All Blacks crush Samoa in warning to Lions

New Zealand’s Ardie Savea scores a try against Samoa at Eden Park in Auckland on June 16, 2017 © AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Jun 16The All Blacks ran in 12 tries to demolish Samoa 78-0 in Auckland on Friday, sending out a clear warning to the British and Irish Lions ahead of next week’s first Test.

It was a game set up for the All Blacks to clear out any rust before they front the composite team at Eden Park next weekend, and rust there was.

If there weren’t teething problems in their first run of the season the score would have been higher as tries went begging.

Tackles were also missed but New Zealand still kept Samoa scoreless in what ballooned to their second biggest win against the Pacific islanders.

The All Blacks led 28-0 with four tries in the first half and added another eight in a sparkling second spell, including one to new cap Vaea Fifita who came off the bench to score with his first touch of the ball.

“Samoa started out really physical and really tested us,” said All Blacks captain Ben Smith.

“We had to be really disciplined tonight and when we were, we started to profit from that.

“We’ll go away and learn from that and make sure we’re better next week. There’s a lot of learnings there that will be great for our group.”

There was plenty for the Lions to take note of, especially the control of the All Blacks forwards at the set piece and the audacious offloads. When there was the merest hint of a counter-attack opportunity, the All Blacks struck hard.

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All Blacks player Israel Dagg (left) looks to offload the ball during the Test against Samoa at Eden Park in Auckland on June 16, 2017 © AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY

Aaron Smith justified his return to the starting line-up as he was central to directing play into the gaps.

But against that, the world champions revived a problem of old when they made a slow start and displayed a creaking defence.

“We just didn’t capitalise on those first 20 minutes,” said Samoa captain Kahn Fotuali’i. “We got down to their tryline and coughed it up too many times.”

He added: “It was tough, they’re not number one in the world for no reason and we knew what we were up against.”

– War dance –

Following the pre-match confrontation with the rival war dances — the All Blacks with their haka and Samoa with their siva tau — it was the Samoans who were the most fired up when the whistle blew.

They dominated territory for the opening quarter with centres Alapati Leiua and Kieron Fonotia carving through the All Blacks backs, where Sonny Bill Williams was twice found wanting.

But despite the pressure, the All Blacks remained calm and when the chance came to counter-attack they pounced.

After defending desperately for the first 10 minutes, it took two well-placed Aaron Smith clearing kicks to ease the pressure and once inside the Samoan 22, a pop pass from Beauden Barrett saw Anton Lienert-Brown score the opening try.

In the closing 10 minutes of the half the All Blacks scored three more tries.

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The first came when Fonotia lost the ball on the All Blacks line which resulted in Ben and Aaron Smith running the hosts out of trouble, and ended with a Barrett try 90 metres away.

Ardie Savea and Williams also crossed the line to have the All Blacks turn 28-0 up as the Samoans’ spirited start flagged.

Aaron Smith started the second half using turnover ball to spark a 60-metre move for Israel Dagg to score.

Julian Savea, Codie Taylor, Beauden Barrett, Fifita, TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea also scored in the second half as rhe All Blacks ran riot.

Beauden Barrett landed seven conversions and Lima Sopoaga kicked two on a night which will give the Lions plenty to chew over ahead of the three-Test series.

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