The All Blacks got two wins from two games at ECOLight stadium tonight, beating Counties Manukau 12-0 and following this up with a 14-5 victory over Auckland.
In an unusual, but highly successful night, the All Blacks players got just the hit out they needed before the Rugby Championships, while the crowd of 7000 gave Counties a financial boost.
To play two games back to back the All Blacks had to make a few odd selections.
For the opening 20-minute game, against Counties, Victor Vito played at lock, Ma’a Nonu at centre and Tamati Ellison was at second-five, while against Auckland Nonu moved into his usual position of No 12 with Ben Smith going to centre.
Piri Weepu played first-five against his home province, while bizarrely Owen Franks played lock and Keven Mealamu was at openside flanker.
The All Blacks, wearing their blue training jerseys rather than their traditional garb, didn’t take long to get the scoring underway against the Steelers with Julian Savea scoring in the second minute on the left wing and eight minutes later Cory Jane exposed an overlap on the other flank for the second try.
Counties certainly gave the All Blacks a physical hit out and smashed into rucks with vigor. This was a chance for the Steelers players to stand out in front of the national selectors and Jimmy Tupou certainly did that.
The New Zealand under-20 lock had a huge work rate and has already developed a Sonny Bill Williams style offload. But he and the other Steelers weren’t able to able to score any points, although they did turn down the chance to take two very kickable penalties.
After a five minute break the All Blacks went from playing a side that didn’t have any Super Rugby players in it, to one with 13.
The jump up was immediately obvious as after a long period on attack Alby Mathewson went on from close range.
But Hosea Gear bumped off Gareth Anscombe a couple of minutes from time to score and Weepu’s conversion put the All Blacks in front.
Just before the end Savea finished off a length of the field attack for his second try of the night.
So two wins and most importantly, no one got injured.
All Blacks 10 (Julian Savea, Cory Jane tries) Counties Manukau 0
All Blacks 14 (Hosea Gear, Julian Savea tries; Piri Weepu 2 cons) Auckland 5 (Alby Mathewson try)
– © Fairfax NZ News