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Portugese spirit, All Black class

Photosport

Sportal.co.nz     16 Sep 2007     Photosport

He scored one try but played a significant role in several of the other 15 scored before he was substituted 63 minutes into the game, where the quality of his performance was given a rousing ovation from the crowd of 40,729.

Collins had set the goal for the side of wanting to sort out some areas that had not been so successful in the opening game against Italy. But even in a game of such differences, there were signs of hesitation and occasional confusion that will provide succour at training before next week's game against Scotland.

Amazing scenes followed the game. Can there ever have been a match which saw one side score 100 points yet result in a standing ovation for both sides? This was a very special occasion in rugby history.

New Zealand did suffer one injury concern when fullback Mils Muliaina left the field with what appeared to be a hamstring strain after seven minutes.

Clearly the superior side, the All Blacks paid the price for a muddled second opening and had the ignominy of conceding a try as the Portugese made the most of a kick ahead by wing Antonio Aguilar.

Joe Rokocoko couldn't tidy the kick ahead when covering and the Portugese mounted four waves at the line before replacement forward Rui Cordeiro convinced the television match official that he had scored. The roar as referee Chris White signaled the try was the greatest of the day.

It was replicated when replacement first five-eighths Duarte Cardoso Pinto converted.

Technically, the Portugese were proficient, if lacking the strength, speed and possession to register more points, but there was no doubting their enthusiasm for the greatest occasion of their rugby history.

Earlier the All Blacks quelled the initial Portugal spirit, and overcame their own early handling errors, to run in eight first half tries

Rokocoko's speed off the mark and longer line acceleration undid the Portugese when he scored the opening two tries in the third and 11th minutes. The first was from a classic lineout drive and set up and the second from a quick throw-in returned to him by replacement fullback Leon MacDonald which saw him quickly into space where his afterburners kicked him away from the startled defence.

Portugal made a spirited start with lock Marcello D'Orey pulling off an intercept which brought the crowd alive only for his downfield kick to slice into touch.

However, second five-eighths Aaron Mauger's failure to hold a reverse pass from first five-eighths Nick Evans saw Portugal's first five Goncalo Malheiro kick downfield. Wing Antonio Aguilar chased hard and while headed by Rokocoko, Aguilar got a foot to the ball and it took superb covering from halfback Brendon Leonard to save the day.

From the resulting lineout play, Portugal moved the ball wide and Malheiro fired a dropped goal over to an outstanding reaction from the crowd.

The All Blacks response was immediate with centre Conrad Smith and Mauger taking the ball to the line before the pass was slipped to wing Isaia Toeava who crossed beneath the posts.

Three minutes later an Isaia Toeava break, again in midfield from his right wing, provided quick rucked ball for Leonard to fire a sweeping pass to a mid-field assembly of All Blacks and it was lock Ali Williams who grasped it to score and two minutes after, Collins doubled around flanker Chris Masoe to set out on a crunching run before passing to Mauger to score.

With the Portugese spirit quickly evaporating tries to Collins and Masoe followed in the 31st and 33rd minutes, Masoe's after a fine bullocking run by MacDonald.

Reward for a busy first effort from hooker Andrew Hore came when he crossed just before halftime after a determined run at the line.

The second half became a procession as New Zealand got its bench players into the action and settled into posting their century of points, a feat achieved when prop Carl Hayman dived over beneath the bar.

Smith got through the game after his injury frustrations and scored two of the last three tries, the last a classic of superb handling.

It was an historic occasion and fittingly, the All Blacks were outstanding in acknowledging this and clapping the Portugese players from the field.

Scorers:

New Zealand 108 (Joe Rokocoko 2, Aaron Mauger 2, Conrad Smith 2, Isaia Toeava, Ali Williams, Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe, Andrew Hore, Brendon Leonard, Nick Evans, Andrew Ellis; Leon MacDonald, Carl Hayman; tries; Evans 14 con) Portugal 13 (Rui Cordeiro try; Duarte Cardoso Pinto con; Pinto pen; Goncalo Malheiro dropped goal). HT: 52-3