New Zealand put in a clinical display on Saturday as they beat Samoa 38-8 in the opening Group B game at the Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Jordan Rapana and Shaun Johnson put the Kiwis ahead before Ken Maumalo pulled one back for Samoa late in the first half and New Zealand led 10-4 at the interval.
New Zealand scored five tries in the second half through Brad Takairangi, Kodi Nikorima, Isaac Liu, Tuivasa-Sheck and Nelson Asofa-Solomona to seal a 38-8 victory for the Kiwis while Joseph Paulo scored a consolation at the death for Samoa.
Kenny Bromwich was a late drop out for New Zealand so Jared Waerea-Hargreaves replaced him in the side. Adam Blair captained the side from the loose forward role.
Castleford Tigers star Ben Roberts started at scrum-half for Samoa while brothers Joseph and Junior Paulo also started. Frank Pritchard was the skipper.
New Zealand looked good from kick-off and it only took them three minutes to score the opening try of the game. A fantastic one-two play between Shaun Johnson and Jordan Rapana resulted in the latter going over out wide. Johnson couldn’t convert but the Kiwis were 4-0 up.
Samoa’s defence certainly caught the eye in the opening stages of the game with the likes of Junior Paulo, Sam Lisone and Frank Pritchard really pushing the New Zealand defence back.
The Kiwis extended their lead midway through the first half after a lovely bit of play. A sublime Simon Mannering offload saw Tommy Leuluai make a break and the Wigan Warriors ace drew the full-back in and gave it to the supporting Johnson who darted over. Johnson didn’t miss the conversion this time and New Zealand were 10-0 in front.
Toa Samoa pulled one back with a couple of minutes of the first half left to play. They threw it through quick hands to winger Ken Maumalo who stepped Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to find his way over the line out wide. New Leigh Centurions recruit Peter Mata’utia couldn’t convert but Samoa were only 10-4 behind at the break.
Samoa’s Pita Godinet left the field and did not return after failing a concussion assessment.
HALF TIME: New Zealand 10–4 Samoa.
It took just five minutes for New Zealand to score following the restart. Samoa star Maumalo dropped the ball on his own line and Brad Takairangi was left with nothing to do but pounce on the ball over the line to score on his Test debut for the Kiwis. Johnson’s conversion went wide but New Zealand were now 14-4 to the good.
New Zealand Warriors star Shaun Johnson was controlling the game and a grubber kick from him saw his half-back Kodi Nikorima score. Johnson added the extras to put his side in a 20-4 advantage.
Isaac Liu scored on his Test debut for New Zealand in the 54th minute. He crashed onto a short pass to barge over from close range. The conversion was on target and New Zealand led 26-4.
Play was stopped for a good five minutes on the hour mark as Gerard Beale left the field on a medicab and did not return.
New Zealand were on top form in the second half and scored their sixth try of the game with 11 minutes remaining. Tuivasa-Sheck got on the scoresheet following a fine break from Nikorima. Johnson’s boot made the score 32-4 to the Kiwis.
Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was denied a try for the Kiwis in the 71st minute for a knock-on earlier in the play.
But just a minute later, New Zealand were in again. Nelson Asofa-Solomona charged at the line and managed to reach over the line from a yard out. Johnson added the conversion to put David Kidwell’s Kiwis 38-4 ahead.
Samoa didn’t give up once in the game though and scored a consolation try in the dying embers of the game as Joseph Paulo cottoned onto a grubber to go over. Mata’utia sliced his conversion attempt and New Zealand ended 38-8 victors in Auckland.
FULL TIME: New Zealand 38–8 Samoa
New Zealand – 38
Tries: Rapana, Johnson, Takairangi, Nikorima, Liu, Tuivasa-Sheck, Asofa-Solomona
Goals: Johnson 5/7
Samoa – 8
Tries: Maumalo, Joseph Paulo
Goals: Mata’utia 0/2
New Zealand: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3. Gerard Beale, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Martin Taupau, 9. Tommy Leuluai, 18. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 13. Simon Mannering, 12. Joseph Tapine, 10. Adam Blair (C).
Interchange: 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15. Russell Packer, 16. Isaac Liu, 17. Danny Levi.
Samoa: 1. Young Tonumaipea, 2. Peter Mata’utia, 3. Tim Lafai, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Joseph Paulo, 7. Ben Roberts, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Jazz Tevaga, 10. Sam Lisone, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Frank Pritchard (C), 13. Leeson Ah Mau.
Interchange: 14. Pita Godinet, 15. Herman Ese’ese, 16. Suaia Matagi, 17. Bunty Afoa.
Referee – James Child