Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: All Blacks beat Canterbury, Wellington in practice games

All eyes were on Richie McCaw as the All Blacks took on Canterbury and Wellington.
All eyes were on Richie McCaw as the All Blacks took on Canterbury and Wellington.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the results wouldn't matter from his team's practice hit-outs against Canterbury and Wellington in Lower Hutt tonight and he took full advantage of the opportunity to give plenty of players a gallop.

A crowd of more than 6000 piled in to the Hutt Recreation ground for a chance to see their heroes and they weren't disappointed as a majority of the big names took to the paddock minus any players from the Chiefs, while Ma'a Nonu and Wyatt Crockett were also out with injury.

All eyes were on Richie McCaw as he continued his return to the field from his sabbatical and he played the first 40 minutes against Canterbury before he was given a rest against Wellington.

McCaw's benching meant hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore both spent time at flanker with Liam Messam unavailable.

The unique game, which saw the All Blacks play 40 minutes against Canterbury then 40 against Wellington, provided Hansen with the chance to give his players a physical game before the New Zealanders open the Rugby Championship against Australia in Sydney next weekend.

Tries to Aaron Smith and Charles Piutau led the All Blacks to a 12-7 win over Wellington after they had to come from behind as the home side scored first through halfback Frae Wilson.

In the first of their 40-minute practice hit-outs, the All Blacks brushed past Canterbury 19-0.

Canterbury infringed regularly through the opening passages as they were clearly outclassed man-for-man but were enthusiastic about competing with the All Blacks at the contact areas.

When penalties were awarded, McCaw instructed the referee they would prefer to pack a scrum and the new laws, which were on show and will be for the Rugby Championship, offered mixed results.

The first scrum resulted in three resets as both sides struggled to get a handle on the new calls.

Julian Savea opened the scoring when he crossed in the ninth minute when he finished off a sweeping movement following a nice cut-out pass from Francis Saili who played in place of Nonu.

Canterbury had the better of the middle stages of the contest, although a fine break by Israel Dagg from his own goal-line looked promising before halfback Smith shelled the inside ball with only one man to beat.

Some brilliant interplay among forwards and backs led to the All Blacks' second five-pointer as Daniel Carter eventually dotted down in the corner in the 33rd minute and then added a tricky conversion for good measure.

All Blacks wing Ben Smith capped the half when he was on the end of the chain to score as the clock ticked past 40 minutes.

Earlier, a Canterbury XV accounted for a fringe Wellington side 24-0 in their 40-minute contest.

All Blacks: 19 (Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Ben Smith tries; Carter 2 con)
Canterbury 0

All Blacks: 12 (Aaron Smith, Charles Piutau tries; Beauden Barrett con)
Wellington: 7 (Frae Wilson try; Lima Sopoaga con)

- APNZ

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