Mixed fortunes for the All Blacks as de Groot is sent off in the 71-3 rout of Namibia
It had all been going so well for the All Blacks. They were easing towards a 71-3 rout of Namibia in Toulouse when a New Zealand red card put a spanner in the works.
Prop Ethan de Groot became the latest player at this Rugby World Cup to make contact to the head of an opponent with a poorly executed – some would say, reckless – tackle.
Some culprits have escaped scot-free but not de Groot, who received a red card from referee Luke Pearce after the TMO Bunker confirmed the initial yellow card needed to be upgraded.
De Groot can now expect to miss matches against Italy, Uruguay and, more significantly, the probable quarter-final against a Pool B heavyweight.
“We will have a look at it – there was a lot of shoulder on shoulder in that contact,” New Zealand coach Ian Foster told BBC Radio 5 Live. “We will compare it to something that happened yesterday and see what comes from it.”
The All Blacks were never going to be tested on a special night for Sam Whitelock, the second-row making his record-equalling 148th Test appearance. Whitelock’s next Test will see him overtake Richie McCaw’s magical caps figure for New Zealand, as well as draw level with McCaw and Jason Leonard on a record 22 RWC appearances.
Ugo Monye, commentating for ITV, said the match was done after five minutes. In truth, anything other than a colossal Kiwi win would have sparked searching questions, such is the gap in class between the teams. New Zealand’s half-backs alone, Damian McKenzie and Cam Roigard, amassed 36 points between them.
New Zealand led 38-3 at the break while barely breaking sweat. They had a try after 97 seconds after Leicester Fainga’anuka’s carry down the left flank and pass inside to scrum-half Roigard. He crossed again five minutes later after capitalising from a surging 5m scrum.
If it seemed the floodgates had opened then Namibia got a 12-minute reprieve, even landing the next points from a Tiaan Swanepoel penalty, before fly-half McKenzie went over from a move that included a glorious reverse pass by Ofa Tuungafasi.
By then Namibia had been cruelly reduced as Le Roux Malan, one of three changes from the XV beaten 52-8 by Italy, suffered what looked like an horrendous ankle injury. The centre, making his first start of 2023 following his Test debut last year against Spain in Madrid, was taken off on the cart and needed oxygen.
As drizzle turned to rain, left-wing Fainga’anuka chalked up the bonus-point try on 24 minutes off a lineout move, Anton Lienert-Brown got the fifth after winning the race to his double kick-through, and the impressive McKenzie got try number six just before the break.
Yet New Zealand may feel a few more got away from them, and a penalty and free-kick conceded near the Namibian line, for lineout obstruction and an early scrum shove respectively, suggested they were still not going through the gears as they would like.
The second half brought tries for de Groot, Dalton Papali’i, David Havili and Rieko Ioane, de Groot’s score prompting chuckles in the coaches’ box. Caleb Clarke also crossed, a score of significance because it equalled his father Eroni’s Test record for New Zealand. Eroni got six tries in ten Tests from 1992-98 but never played at a World Cup.
McKenzie, making his first World Cup start having missed Japan 2019 with an ankle injury, slotted eight conversions as New Zealand sailed towards their 50th RWC victory. They are the first team to reach the milestone and only Australia (43) are anyone close to them.
New Zealand Beauden Barrett; Caleb Clarke, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuka; Damian McKenzie, Cam Roigard; Ofa Tuungafasi, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallic, Sam Whitelock, Luke Jacobsen, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea (capt).
Replacements 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Tupou Vaa’i, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Namibia Cliven Loubser; Gerswin Mouton, Johan Deysel (capt), Le Roux Malan, Divan Rossouw; Tiaan Swanepoel, Damian Stevens; Jason Benade, Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee, Johan Retief, Tijuee Uanivi, Wian Conradie, Prince Gaoseb, Richard Hardwick.
Replacements 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Desiderius Sethie, 18 Haitembu Shifuka, 19 PJ Van Lill, 20 Adriaan Booysen, 21 Max Katjijeko, 22 Jacques Theron, 23 JC Greyling.
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