Manu Samoa 16
All Blacks 25

A day out from this test All Blacks captain Richie McCaw smiled at questions about the expected heat, saying he thought the temperatures might have been hotter.

Today he turned them up by himself, a self-contained search and destroy missile who probably more than any other All Black snuffed out the Manu Samoa threat at source as things threatened to go awry.

And make no mistake, the All Blacks needed his presence and leadership in the final quarter as Manu Samoa came on to the boil and scored a brilliant try through flanker Alafoti Faosiliva.


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All the talk beforehand was of the potential for a high-impact start, but it was the finish which was the more spectacular on every level. The collisions and breakdown were not places for the faint of heart. A match, which finished 25-16, provided the All Blacks with a true test and ensured the 8000 who crammed into Apia Park could go home happy.

Luckily for All Blacks, McCaw was everywhere, socks around his ankles, and playing like he was 10 years younger than 34. In the All Blacks' first test of this year of all years, McCaw proved he has still got it and is in fact more important than ever.

Giant wing Alesana Tuilagi lined him up and was duly dropped. Later, with Tuilagi preparing to take a high ball on the left flank, it was McCaw putting the pressure on and causing the No11 to drop it.

The All Blacks captain was everywhere during the historic test in Apia. Photo / Getty Images
The All Blacks captain was everywhere during the historic test in Apia. Photo / Getty Images

Unfortunately for the Manu Samoa players, the timing and cohesion displayed by about 100 male dancers in an entertaining and meaningful halftime display couldn't be transferred to the pitch until it was too late. There was a hurried feel about their play, a case of rushing rather than playing with speed, but they showed in the finish just how much of a threat they can be.

There will now be a clamour for more tier one nations to visit Apia, and they can't say they weren't warned about the courage and playing ability of the local men.

The performance of McCaw, and a composed Dan Carter, who kicked seven from eight, and delivered the cross-kick for George Moala's try on debut, will please Steve Hansen, as will the fact the All Blacks appeared to escape without any serious injuries after early scares to Kieran Read and Luke Romano, but the All Blacks coach wouldn't have been as happy watching his pack marched 15m backwards by a rampant Manu Samoa maul or the missed tackles which allowed local hero Faosiliva to score.

Hansen will probably be relieved it's all over without too much collateral damage, safe in the knowledge that his team survived a close examination with the help of their skipper.