All Blacks rout sends warning to B&I Lions
MATCH REPORT: New Zealand started their 2017 campaign in perfect fashion - a 78-0 win over a hapless Samoa in Auckland on Friday.
It was also the perfect warm-up for what awaits later this month.
The 12-try rout epitomised the mountain that awaits the British and Irish Lions when the three-Test series gets underway in just over a week's time.
It was a game set up for the All Blacks to clear out any rust before they front the composite team at the same venue 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 they still kept Samoa scoreless.
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.
Samoa had no answer to the superior pace, power and skill of the All Blacks - from No.1 right through to No.23.
There was some initial resistance and the score was just 7-0 on the half-hour mark.
However, a 21-point blitz in the 10 minutes before the break knocked the stuffing out of whatever Samoan resistance there was.
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.
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.
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, ending with a Barrett try 90 metres away.
Ardie Savea and Williams also crossed the line to have the All Blacks turn 28-0 up and the Samoans' spirited start beginning to flag.
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 the All Blacks ran riot.
Beauden Barrett landed seven conversions and Lima Sopoaga kicked two.
Man of the match: There is the class and vision of Beauden Barrett, the skill and pace of the other backs, as well as the power of the Savea brothers, Julian and Ardie. The All Black forwards, as a unit and individuals, were also far superior. But no player's workrate was as high as that of All Black lock Brodie Retallick - the winner of our award, even though there is a strong case to be made for two-try Beauden Barrett.
Moment of the match: There were 12 great tries, but the Beauden Barrett try on the half-hour mark knocked the stuffing out of the Samoan resistance - which up till that stage had a measure of respectability about it.
Villain: No villains. Plenty of heroes!
For New Zealand:
Tries: Lienert-Brown, B Barrett 2, A Savea 2, Williams, Dagg, J Savea, Taylor, Fifita, Perenara, Cane
Cons: B Barrett 7, Sopoaga 2
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Tusitala Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotualii (captain), 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Fa'aselele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia.
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifu'a, 20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)