Rugby World Cup 2003
New Zealand romp to victory over Italy
October 11, 2003
New Zealand try-scorer Dan Carter breaks clear of the Italy defence
© Getty Images
New Zealand laid down an impressive World Cup marker with an 11-try 70-7 romp over Italy in Melbourne.
The All Blacks made World Cup history to become the first side in World Cup history to claim a bonus point after the introduction of the familiar system for this year's tournament.
From the time Carlos Spencer slotted the first penalty goal just a minute into the match, the gallant Italians had no answer to the might of a New Zealand side that showed it had seemingly limitless attacking options - albeit against an opposition that was seriously outclassed.
The All Blacks looked likely to break through the Italian defence every time they kept the ball in hand, moving it quickly and running strongly in waves.
It was no surprise when lock Brad Thorn became the second ex-league player to cross for a try in two matches - following Wendell Sailor's tournament-opening effort on Friday night - after only 12 minutes of play.
Just minutes later, New Zealand put the ball through even more sets of hands a little wider on the left, this time giving flanker Reuben Thorne a clear path to the tryline to finish off a movement that demonstrated the speed and skill of the pre-tournament favourites.
For the second time, however, Spencer failed to convert the try, this time finding the woodwork, leaving the Kiwis with a 13-0 lead after 15 minutes.
The Italian defence kept working hard, causing a couple of promising All Black attacks to fall down within sight of the line, but ironically it was when the Azzurri launched its best early attack that New Zealand struck its next blow.
Dan Carter secured the ball just a couple of metres out from his own line and burst up the middle, eluding three or four would-be tacklers, before offloading to Doug Howlett, who sprinted the final 60 metres to touch down. Carter converted for a 20-0 lead.
Just before half-time another lightning-quick exchange of passes at full pace down the left saw Spencer through to score the All Blacks' fourth try of the game, making them the first team to pick up a World Cup bonus point.
Spencer reclaimed the kicking duties but again failed to convert, this shot drifting across the face of the target to leave the score 25-0 going into the break.
Only two minutes after the resumption, it was business as usual with Howlett finding plenty of space down the left to cross for his second try, which Carter converted.
But the Italians were not to be denied and maintained their attacking approach, pushing forward and keeping control of the ball for lengthy periods.
After twice crossing the tryline only to be held up by the Kiwi defence, former New Zealand Maori Matt Phillips finally got the ball down for a five-pointer, which was converted by Gert Peens to get the Italians on the board, down 32-7.
But that only opened the floodgates at the other end, as first Joe Rokocoko, then Spencer, Justin Marshall, Carter and Rokocoko again crossed in not much more than ten minutes, blowing the scoreline out to 63-7.
Leon MacDonald capped off the try-fest in the shadows of full time, and Carter's sixth successful shot at the extra points was the final action of a match which did nothing to alter the perception that New Zealand has an awesome outfit capable of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in seven week's time.
But the victory came with a few dark clouds for the All Blacks, with Tana Umaga limping off after hyper-extending his knee just a quarter of an hour in and Rokocoko pulling up with what may have been a calf or hamstring strain after scoring his second try.
New Zealand 70: Tries: Howlett (2), Spencer (2), Rokocoko (2), Thorn, Thorne, Marshall, Carter, MacDonald 1, Conversions: Carter 6, Penalties: Spencer 1
Italy 7: Try: Phillips 1, Conversion: Peens 1, Crowd: 40, 715 at Telstra Dome
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