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All Blacks celebrate Sam Whitelock’s milestone with dominant win

By Finn Morton
The players of New Zealand perform the Haka prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between New Zealand and Namibia at Stadium de Toulouse on September 15, 2023 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The All Blacks ticked plenty of boxes on Friday night as they celebrated Sam Whitelocks’ record-equalling 148th Test appearance with a dominant 71-3 win over Namibia in Toulouse.

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Whitelock matches fellow two-time World Cup winner Richie McCaw for the most appearances by an All Black. It’s an astonishing achievement from one of the best to have worn the coveted jersey.

Earlier this week, coach Ian Foster called on the All Blacks to show “that record a lot of respect” against Namibia – and they did just that.

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New Zealand won their first Test match in more than 40 days, and got their Rugby World Cup campaign back on track, with a practically perfect display at Stade de Toulouse.

Fullback Beauden Barrett kicked off the Test at 9.02 pm, and it didn’t take long for the All Blacks to take control. New Zealand went coast to coast and scored with their first possession.

The All Blacks were both patient and clever as they continued to march up the field. There was some stunning razzle-dazzle, but the Kiwis made their mark on the back of some tough carries.

Barrett and wing Leicester Fainga’anuku combined with a clever crossfield kick, and a confident All Blacks outfit – almost suddenly – were making their way towards the try line.

Points Flow Chart

New Zealand win +68
Time in lead
80
Mins in lead
0
100%
% Of Game In Lead
0%
63%
Possession Last 10 min
37%
7
Points Last 10 min
0

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Fainga’anuku got the ball back in his hands, and a rampaging carry helped send halfback Cam Roigard over for the opening try of the night in the first minute.

That was only just the start, too.

Roigard crossed for another try about six minutes later with the All Blacks’ dominance at the set-piece laying the foundations for what ended up being quite an easy score.

The All Blacks raced out to a comfortable 12-nil lad, and those supporters wearing black were loving every minute of it – but everyone loves an underdog.

Namibia got off the mark in the 10th minute with flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel nailing what ended up being his only penalty attempt of the Test. The crowd let out an incredibly powerful cheer as the ball sailed through the posts.

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But that’s as good as it got for Namibia.

Tries to Fainga’anuku, Anton Lienert-Brown and a double from playmaker Damian McKenzie saw the All Blacks take an emphatic 38-3 lead into the break.

Roigard didn’t cross for a hat-trick amongst the flurry of tries, but a well-worked assist for halves partner McKenzie would’ve had fans back in New Zealand smiling in the early hours of Saturday morning.

It was a promising performance in the opening term, but fans wanted more.

Replacement Ethan de Groot scored the All Blacks’ seventh try of the Test early in the second half. Just after coming on, the prop found himself in the unfamiliar position of wing during broken play but did enough to score.

Dalton Papali’i, David Havili and Caleb Clarke piled on more points as the New Zealanders sailed towards a brighter tomorrow. They were winning by 61 points with 10 to play.

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But things took a turn.

De Groot was sent to the sin bin for a high shot, and the card was upgraded to red following an off-field review. It wouldn’t put the result in doubt, but it’s a very real concern for the All Blacks ahead of some pivotal games at this World Cup.

Even with a one-player disadvantage, the All Blacks made sure to finish on a high note with replacement Rieko Ioane scoring their 11th and final try late in the piece.

Following tough losses to the Springboks at Twickenham and France in last week’s World Cup opener, the All Blacks bounced back in a big way.

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