Rugby: All Blacks cruise through warm-up hitout

All Blacks back Israel Dagg scores a try against Northland at Pukekohe Ecolight Stadium. Photo / Nick Reed
All Blacks back Israel Dagg scores a try against Northland at Pukekohe Ecolight Stadium. Photo / Nick Reed

The All Blacks have come through two valuable 40 minute halves against Northland and Counties Manukau without any major injury concerns ahead of the Rugby Championship.

A big crowd turned up at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe last night for the event billed as the game of three halves - which featured the All Blacks playing 40 minutes against both provincial teams as well as a 40 minute trial between the two provinces played under the new laws to be used in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Steve Hansen's men enjoyed almost all of the ball in their 40 minutes against the Taniwha, racking up 73 unanswered points but they got more of a work out in their second period against the Steelers. Counties, with the 8,000-plus crowd cheering them on, kept the All Blacks scoreless for the first 18 minutes while managing to score a try themselves through the impressive flanker Fotu Lokotui.

The All Blacks eased to a comfortable 35-7 win as the class began to shine through.

"The first half was a good start and the boys played well and put some things together," coach Steve Hansen said. "In the second half Counties came on and put us under a bit of pressure so we had to deal with a few things, which is ideal preparation.

"Some of these guys haven't played for three or four weeks so we needed it."

First-five Aaron Cruden got plenty of goal-kicking practice - hitting seven of eight attempts from all over the park. Flanker Matt Todd also stood out and was rewarded with a couple of tries as did Israel Dagg.

Out of form winger Julian Savea was lucky to have been shown faith by the selectors after a lackluster Super Rugby campaign with the champion Hurricanes and still looks some way off his best but did work hard in his game time.

Hooker Nathan Harris tweaked an ankle but it isn't considered serious and he'll be available to travel to Australia.

Earlier the Steelers enjoyed a 24-5 win over Northland in a scrappy affair as both teams adjusted to the new breakdown rules set to be in use when the Mitre 10 Cup begins next Thursday.

Players arriving at the breakdown looked unsure whether to attack the ball with their hands and risk conceding a penalty as others joined in. They resorted to holding off and allowing the team in possession to hang on the ball for much of the time.

The changes should make it easier for fans to see infringements but it will take teams a while to work out what tactics work.

- NZ Herald

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