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All Blacks player ratings vs Fiji | Steinlager Series

By Alex McLeod
Richie Mo'unga. All Blacks v Fiji, Steinlager Series, international rugby union test match. FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Saturday 17 July 2021. © Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

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The All Blacks have silenced their critics with an impressive 60-13 thumping of Fiji at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.

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Fiji showed promise early on in the clash, staying within touching distance of the home side for at least half an hour. However, the All Blacks eventually began to settle, growing a lead through patient play as Sevu Reece completed a first half hattrick and Ardie Savea, in his 50th test, dotted down for the All Blacks to register a 29-6 lead at halftime.

Despite seeing captain Leone Nakarawa sent to the bin, Fiji, through a Peni Ravai score, hit back at the start of the second half, after Will Jordan had strolled over for his 9th test try.

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One way traffic was to follow shortly after, as the All Blacks started to show a clinical edge, building phases and scores, with Shannon Frizell and Rieko Ioane both dotting down. Samisoni Taukei’aho also featured, grabbing two tries on his test debut to see the All Blacks mark a strong finish to this Steinlager Series.

Here’s how the All Blacks rated:

1. George Bower – 6.5
Teamed up with Nepo Laulala to absolutely demolish a Fijian player off a restart, but was then pinged at the ensuing ruck. Held his own at the scrum, as he did last week. With Joe Moody unlikely to return to the fold until September, Bower looks like the man who will don the No 1 jersey heading into next month’s Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship. Off in the 51st minute.

2. Codie Taylor – 6
Stifled a promising-looking rolling maul by denying Fiji the chance to get the ball out and use it, thus forcing a turnover in the 10th minute. Sloppy lineout throwing in the 27th minute as he cost his side a potential try-scoring opportunity with a wayward throw from a promising position. Off in the 55th minute.

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3. Nepo Laulala – 6.5
His conjoint hit with Bower on a brave Fijian ball-carrier was certainly an eye-catcher in the first half. His chemistry with Bower extended to the set piece, as both players anchored the scrum well. Off in the 51st minute.

4. Scott Barrett – 6
Stole a lineout in the 11th minute. Gave away a poor penalty in the 22nd minute with a side entry at the breakdown. Off in the 55th minute.

5. Sam Whitelock – 6
Plenty of grunt with ball in hand and sound at the lineout. Fearless in his ball-carrying, of which Ian Foster will take plenty of pleasure out of, as that was an aspect of the game he wanted to see improvements in from his forward pack.

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6. Akira Ioane – 6
Proved his place in the starting team by holding his own up against the Fijian pack, something which Shannon Frizell couldn’t do last week in Dunedin. Equal-top tackler for the All Blacks. Not a vintage performance, but certainly solid enough. Off in the 67th minute.

7. Ardie Savea – 7
Strong impact in his first action upon return from injury as he made a crunching hit on defence. Looked to get involved frequently on defence, although he spilt the ball cold from a lineout move midway through the first half. Pure power to crash his way over for a hard-earned try on the stroke of half-time. Joined Ioane as New Zealand’s top tackler. Encouraging return to test rugby in his 50th appearance for the All Blacks.

8. Luke Jacobson – 6
Like Ioane, put in a better effort than his predecessor from last week as he found himself involved frequently on either side of the ball. Also like Ioane, not a performance for the ages, but he still stands as the best No 8 option in the country.

9. Aaron Smith – 6.5
Exploited the Fijian blindside channels excellently twice throughout the first half, which led to Sevu Reece’s second try and Rieko Ioane’s only try. Off in the 64th minute.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 8
Solid kicking out of hand to peg Fiji back with some nice touch-finders. Exceptional footwork on show late in the first half. Replicated that to create a searing line break out of nothing in the 56th minute. Served up try assists for Sevu Reece, Will Jordan and Rieko Ioane and was pretty trusty off the kicking tee as well. Definitely looks to be the better option between him and Beauden Barrett for the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship campaign. Off in the 58th minute.

11. Sevu Reece – 7.5
Showed off his raking boot in the first play of the match, but quickly undid his good work by getting penalised for a high tackle. Good support play to back-up David Havili for his try in the 15th minute. Good finish in the corner for his second. In the right place at the right time to scoop up his third and complete his first test hat-trick. Offered plenty on attack and finished the match with the most run metres. Looks to have locked in his place as a starter for Bledisloe I on August 7.

12. David Havili – 7
Caught flat-footed early in the match and was punished for it as he was the victim of a thumping tackle in the middle of the park. He learned his lesson, though, as the next time he got the ball, he danced through the Fijian defensive line and flicked a Sonny Bill-esque offload away to Reece for a try. Was the victim of yet another Fijian double whammy in the second half. All in all, though, a very solid performance and should retain his place in the starting side over the coming weeks.

13. Anton Lienert-Brown 6
Exposed on defence early on as he jammed in to help out Havili, which left a gaping hole in the midfield for Fiji to exploit and take the ball deep into enemy territory. Showed some glimpses of his physicality with ball in hand. Lack of communication with Havili cost the All Blacks a likely try in the 64th minute. Still a decent enough return from elbow surgery.

14. Will Jordan – 6
Had a quiet first half, but got on the board early in the second stanza after running a good line to pierce the Fijian defensive line from close range. Off in the 43rd minute.

15. Damian McKenzie – 7
Put under some pressure by Fiji’s kickers and chasers as he was rushed into kicking the ball out on the full in the ninth minute. That seemed to be a theme throughout the first half as Fiji’s kick-chase game did as much as it could to disrupt McKenzie’s presence in the backfield, but he dealt with it well for the most part. Swift distribution skills featured on occasion. Outstanding try-saving tackle on Ben Volavola and then did superbly to win the penalty at the breakdown.

Reserves:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 7
On in the 55th minute. In typical hooker fashion, scored off the back of a rolling maul in his first touch in test rugby. Eat your heart out Dane Coles. Barnstorming run up the middle of the park in the 68th minute nearly earned him a brace. Eventually got his second try off a set move from the lineout in the dying stages of the match. A big statement on his All Blacks debut that may have moved him up the national pecking order.

17. Ethan de Groot – 6
On in the 51st minute. Got his hands on the ball from time to time and disgruntled the Fijians at scrum time.

18. Angus Ta’avao – 6
On in the 51st minute. Couldn’t quite reel in the bouncing ball as the tryline loomed as part of an All Blacks counter-attack midway through the second half. Strong showing at scrum time.

19. Brodie Retallick – 6
On in the 55th minute. Slowly built back into test footy in just his second appearance in the black jersey since his lengthy sabbatical layoff.

20. Shannon Frizell – 6
On in the 67th minute. Burrowed over for a try shortly after entering the fray after some good build-up play by his peers.

21. Brad Weber – 6
On in the 64th minute. Didn’t quite make the impact Smith did, and didn’t provide the impetus Finlay Christie did in his two cameos off the pine over the past fortnight. That’s not to say he did anything wrong, but his performance just wasn’t as impressive as we’ve come to see from other halfbacks in recent weeks.

22. Beauden Barrett – 6
On in the 58th minute. Played his part well off the bench, especially with his ball-running ability from the backfield, but looks very much a second-fiddle option to Mo’unga at this point.

23. Rieko Ioane – 7
On in the 43rd minute. Scored shortly after his induction into the match on the back of some good drawing and passing by Mo’unga. Lovely work to suck in three defenders and then offload on the short side to set Lienert-Brown away for a line break in the 64th minute. Brought great energy as an impact option off the bench. Looks a lot more suited to the wing than in the midfield.

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All Blacks player ratings vs Fiji | Steinlager Series

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