New Zealand v Namibia: Five takeaways from Rugby World Cup clash as half-backs show their class

New Zealand fly-half Damian McKenzie scoring against Namibia. Credit: Alamy
New Zealand fly-half Damian McKenzie scoring against Namibia. Credit: Alamy

Following the 71-3 victory for New Zealand over Namibia in Pool A of the Rugby World Cup, here’s our five takeaways from the game at Stadium de Toulouse.

An ideal game to respond

After falling to back-to-back losses to South Africa and France, the All Blacks needed to get back on the horse and that they did against an outclassed Namibia. Six tries in the opening half and five after the break meant it was a cakewalk for New Zealand as they brought some positivity back into their World Cup camp.

The team sheet screamed excitement, especially in the half-backs and they did not disappoint, with Cam Roigard and Damian McKenzie relishing their opportunity to link up behind a pack that was going forward at a rate. Outside them the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown and Leicester Fainga’anuku also cut loose at times as New Zealand flushed those recent defeats out of their system ahead of a bye week before they return to action in a must-win fixture with Italy on September 29.

A massive gulf in quality

While we’ve been delighted to see the progress and competitiveness the likes of Chile and Uruguay have shown in the early stages of the tournament, it’s tough seeing such a one-sided game at Rugby World Cup level. Unfortunately for Namibia they were outclassed in pretty much every department as New Zealand cruised.

Closing the gap on the Tier One teams looks an impossible job most of the time but we’ve seen the South American duo – and Japan before them in 2019 – showing it can be done. Namibia will of course have targeted other games in this difficult pool but it was hard to ignore the contrast in quality in this heavy defeat.

Cam Roigard shines again

He announced himself on the international stage in the Rugby World Cup warm-up clash with the Springboks last month when making an impressive try-scoring cameo late on but this was a special night for the Hurricanes star. Collecting the Player of the Match after a dream 67-minute showing, Roigard put in a classy shift.

Two first-half tries and a couple of assists to boot meant it was the perfect opening 40 minutes for Roigard and while he didn’t hit those heights in the second half, he can take plenty from this victory, knowing that he couldn’t have done much more to displace Finlay Christie as back-up to Aaron Smith in the big games.

With the great Smith nearing the end of his Test career, the future at number nine looks to be in steady hands, with Roigard living up to his Super Rugby hype.

DMac must make the squad

Following on from Roigard’s performance, it could quite easily have been McKenzie holding the Player of the Match award on Friday as he was excellent in a rare start. He went over for two tries in his 26-point haul as he regularly offered an injection of pace to their attack, which caused Namibia no end of problems.

While it’s a numbers game in terms of backline options among the replacements and regular starters Richie Mo’unga (fly-half) and Beauden Barrett (fly-half/full-back) don’t help McKenzie’s case for a bench spot, one can’t help but feel the All Blacks need McKenzie in the squad for crucial matches as he’s such a threat.

Penalty count still a concern

Although his side cruised to a comfortable triumph, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster will be unhappy with their high penalty count – something which has been sticking out like a sore thumb during their past three matches. In their recent fixture against the Springboks, they conceded 14 penalties and then leaked 12 against France.

New Zealand suffered defeats in both those games and although they were victorious against Namibia, discipline let them down as they coughed up 12 penalties. They were penalised at the scrums and breakdowns but what was especially concerning was Ethan de Groot’s yellow card which was later upgraded to red for an illegal hit on Adriaan Booysen late in the first period.

There’s plenty of work to do for Foster and his team ahead of their next match against Italy in a fortnight.

READ MORE: New Zealand player ratings: Cam Roigard stars in one-sided All Blacks win over Namibia

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