Consistency and composure remain elusive qualities for Stephen Kearney's Kiwis side following their narrow escape over a determined and committed Samoan outfit in Whangarei yesterday.
Kearney and Kiwis captain Simon Mannering spoke during the lead-up about the need to start well at Toll Stadium after last weekend's sluggish opening quarter against the Kangaroos.
However, for the second week in a row they conceded first points and were off the pace early on in what was an error-ridden display.
"We anticipated the challenge that was coming today and I thought we prepared that way but it probably exceeded what I thought they would come with," Kearney said. "In fairness, we were probably a little bit off the ball so that's the lesson for us."
Hopes were high that the Kiwis would be better off following last week's initial hit-out, with many players lacking match-fitness but, despite having had a full week to hone combinations, their cohesion was poor.
At least six prime attacking chances went begging, with pushed passes and sloppy handling seeing the ball shovelled out wide with little accuracy, while halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran's kicking earned just three repeat sets.
Kearney believed his side's attitude was amiss and felt that had impacted on their ability to execute but credited Samoa's enthusiasm for restricting their attack.
"Both go part and parcel. don't they? If you're not quite 100 per cent in attitude then execution is not going to be 100 per cent but, again, that's the learning for us. A lot of their defence created a little bit of that frustration and execution just with the tenacity that they defended with and the energy that they carried."
Last week the Kiwis recovered well and found their rhythm through the second quarter but yesterday's lacklustre effort saw them take a backward step. They seemed to lose confidence as the game progressed before urgency finally arrived in their play inside the final quarter.
"We set the bar pretty high last week and today's performance was a good lesson for us in terms of where we need to work towards if we really want to make a go of this competition."
The forward effort failed to match the dynamic and relentless standards of the Suncorp Stadium showing and the bench players were unable to lift the side's energy levels as they had in Brisbane.
Props Jesse Bromwich and Whangarei hometown boy Adam Blair's offloads were greatly reduced and Mannering, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and the powerful Jason Taumalolo were well contained.
Hooker Issac Luke showed some good touches in his first match after a month-long layoff, but the Kiwis' nine, seven and six combinations were given little room to work in.
Johnson, so confident and assured against Australia, took an age to get involved and rarely ran the ball until the game was on the line.
Foran tried hard and did well to earn his side's first try, but neither of the little men were able to function effectively behind a pack that struggled to assert themselves.
New Zealand will need to correct their deficiencies before next Saturday's Dunedin showdown with England or their hopes of winning the tournament on home soil will be short-lived.