All good for All Blacks in local hit-out
August 9, 2014
Beauden Barrett played a stint at fullback before shifting to fly-half on Friday night © Getty Images
The All Blacks got exactly what they needed from two 40-minute matches against North Harbour and Northland in Albany on Friday night, with the chance to blow off some rust causing no new major injury concerns.
The All Blacks ran in seven first-half tries in a 41-5 rout of North Harbour - and a further three tries in a more competitive 19-7 second-half against Northland despite wet conditions. Interestingly, Ma'a Nonu kicked three conversions from seven against Harbour - including one sideline attempt.
"It was a what if," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told stuff.co.nz of Nonu's goal-kicking. "If something happened and we needed it a kicker... it was an opportunity to try it. Ma'a didn't do too bad. It was a good hit-out for us. The guys hadn't played for a while and in the second-half that showed. It was exactly what we needed."
Openside flanker Sam Cane returned after fracturing his knee in late May and was forced from the field in the second quarter with a minor cut to his head. That was the only injury concern in an otherwise successful hit-out ahead of next week's first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.
Cory Jane looked sharp in scoring a hat-trick, Charles Piutau enjoyed time at fullback and left wing while Liam Squire was a standout in the first-half at blindside flanker. The Tasman and Chiefs No. 8 set-up two tries with well-timed offloads while loose-forward partner Shane Christie also impressed after replacing Cane.
"He's someone we've seen and liked so it was good to have an opportunity to see him play," Hansen said of Squire.
There was no sign of Brodie Retallick or the Crusaders' contingent, which left Jeremy Thrush and Steven Luatua to partner at lock, while Aaron Cruden took charge at fly-half with Dan Carter out for a month.
Aaron Smith, who confirmed he was staying with the Highlanders for a further two years, was one of three scrum-halves used while Beauden Barrett started at fullback for the Northland half, before shifting to his accustomed role at fly-half in the final quarter. Ben Franks played 60 minutes at loose-head prop, while Nonu ran strongly in the midfield alongside Conrad Smith and Malakai Fekitoa.
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