New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith scores a hat-trick as the All Blacks claim a bonus-point 96-17 win against Italy in Pool A at OL Stadium on Friday, 29 September.

New Zealand dominated every facet of the game to overwhelm Italy 96-17 at OL Stadium on Friday evening, taking a huge step towards the quarter-finals in the process. 

In a performance that will have put the rest of the tournament on notice, the All Blacks effectively ended the contest before half-time. A devastating 17-minute first-half burst saw the three-time Rugby World Cup winners score 35 unanswered points, including a hat-trick for scrum-half Aaron Smith. 

Down 49-3 at the break, the Azzurri had the briefest of respites at the start of the second half, when a flying Ange Capuozzo, roared on by the crowd, touched down in the corner. But the try served merely to reopen the floodgates, New Zealand responding with a further seven tries to give Sam Whitelock, who went past Richie McCaw as the most-capped All Black of all time, the perfect gift. 

With New Zealand’s forward pack rampant and the backs at their free-flowing best, a shell-shocked Italy simply had no answer.

New Zealand captain Ardie Savea, who was also the Mastercard Player of the Match, said: “We put a lot mahi (work) in last week and this week, not just myself but all the boys that played tonight put that effort in.

“We have talent across the board. We had not really clicked but tonight we played some free rugby and that’s how I want my boys to play. Really proud tonight. We’ve put a lot into this week and got the rewards.

“We wanted to come out and make a statement. We wanted to dominate up front. Our forwards had the platform and the backs finished it off. It was really good but we let it slip in the end so we are never satisfied, never comfortable. There are little areas to get better.

“It was a final for us, it was a do-or-die game. We have got to play like this every weekend.”

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster paid tribute to second-row Sam Whitelock, who was making a record 149th appearance for the All Blacks. He said: “Individually, it’s a great achievement. To stand alone at the top for appearances for this team is pretty special. He deserves it. He’s been a warrior for a long, long time and continues to do that job. Really proud and great occasion for him to mark it.”

Italy captain Michele Lamaro found it difficult to come to terms with the scale of the defeat, saying: “Obviously it is tough even to say something. We have learnt a very big lesson. We have to stay together. We have got another chance and we have to prepare well now. Obviously sometimes it is not your day but we have to stick together.”

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley said: “They just monstered us. It was like a training run for them. I think we won 33 per cent in the scrum and 50 per cent in the lineout.

“They played bloody well but we gifted them a few tries in a few areas, but we just need to chuck it in the bin and go next week.” – WORLD RUGBY

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