All Blacks beat Namibia by 44 points, still cop criticism

All Blacks 58 Namibia 14
It's not often the All Blacks can score more than 50 points and not feel good about life. But there you go - that's what happens when the world's best team has to play the weakest at this World Cup.

The reasons why the All Blacks won't be feeling great are several. They didn't ever find the flow and cohesion they were after.

Too many mistakes for that. Passes that should never have been thrown were and the discipline wasn't good enough - or maybe it was the ref that wasn't good enough, but whatever, there were too many penalties conceded.

No one would have read too much into it, but still, the All Blacks would rather have delivered an emphatic, polished performance. They would like to have made a statement about their readiness; their slickness and urgency. They would prefer to have had their serious rivals looking on, wondering if the All Blacks do indeed have any weaknesses.

That never happened. Didn't get close. The All Blacks looked to be no different to the other serious contenders: capable but not deadly. Useful but with flaws - like taking high balls. Quite how deep into this tournament they will go before they catch one is becoming more intriguing than it is worrying.

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The exception was Sonny Bill Williams. Whatever he was told after his disappointing night in Sydney a few months back...the message got through. He's no longer worried about is chronically deteriorating knee. His head is obviously clear - not vacant - and it's working for him.

His rugby was again direct and forceful with a couple of magical touches. His offload on the line to Malakai Fekitoa is the sort of pass that wins World Cups. Imagine that later in the tournament? Then there was his pick up and pop on the hoof that led to the last try of the first half: a man his size shouldn't really have been able to do that.

And yet he made it look easy and in doing so, signalled that he's bang in form, which was far and away the brightest point of the performance.

Otherwise, it was a night that left a feeling of there being so much more to come. Frustrating would sum it up well enough, but the All Blacks probably need to park all that and move on quick as they can.

There was never going to be much for the All Blacks to get out of playing Namibia. The risk - someone being injured - was always higher than any potential rewards. As to what those rewards were? A bit of a physical battering and a chance to run those who hadn't played in game one.

That was it. That was all that was on the table for the All Blacks. It wasn't much but they did at least get it - especially the battering. There were more than a few thunderous hits made by the Namibians and while they lacked poise and control with the ball, they didn't want for much without it.

There will be a few sore All Blacks in the morning. Which is what they wanted. What they needed. Those who hadn't yet played have been on a long diet of training and it's never the same.

Two games in and 29 players have been blooded - Liam Messam and Waisake Naholo haven't yet been seen due to injury. If nothing else, the whole squad will now feel they have punched the card - that they are fully immersed in this World Cup.

- By Gregor Paul at Olympic Stadium


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