All Blacks run rampant in warm-up

All Black wing Rieko Ioane makes a break against Taranaki during the Game of Three Halves in...
All Black wing Rieko Ioane makes a break against Taranaki during the Game of Three Halves in Pukekohe last night. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Pukekohe turned out in force last night to watch the All Blacks tune up for the opening Bledisloe Cup in style.

The now traditional game of three halves, staged at Growers Stadium, drew a large crowd despite Stephen Donald's book launch taking place at the neighbouring Waiuku Rugby Club.

On the field, the All Blacks did not disappoint, although their orange high-viz training tops with no numbers on the back resembled traffic wardens far more than the national team.

As soon as they began to throw the ball around, it was clear these were no imposters.

The All Blacks ran in a procession of tries - nine in total - to wallop Taranaki 57-7 in their first half. Not bad for a group that assembled on Thursday, and had one 20-minute training run together.

In the 40 minutes before that, Counties took care of Taranaki 28-7 but it could not repeat those efforts against the All Blacks.

Counties provided more defensive resistance than Taranaki but with Rieko Ioane running rampant down the left flank, even the home side conceded 49 points against the All Blacks.

None of the championship-winning Crusaders took part after returning from South Africa to celebrate their eighth title this week. Beauden Barrett was also kept in cotton wool as Lima Sopoaga enjoyed an extended run at first five-eighth, only switching out late for Damian McKenzie who initially emerged on the wing.

The All Blacks were inaccurate at times but they were never going to be troubled by provincial opposition.

Playing with their typical brand of power and pace some of the skills, handling and offloads in the wide channels were brilliant.

Length of the field breakouts featured regularly. Ben Smith, Ngani Laumape, Ioane, who spent time at centre, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles were particularly impressive. Nepo Laulala was a notable addition at tighthead prop, more than holding his own.

"It was good to be back after a couple of weeks off,'' Coles said. "We had a bit of fun. It's not going to be like that next week but it's always good to get the ball and have a bit of a go.''

Crucially, the All Blacks did not appear to pick up any serious injuries. They were not really tested on defence but this hit-out will only serve to boost attacking confidence.

"I wanted the guys to get a good run; some of them haven't played for a while,'' All Black coach Steve Hansen said.

"It's always difficult to get back into international rugby without a game under your belt. I'm really thankful we got the opportunity to play the Taranaki and Counties guys.''

In terms of selection for the opening Bledisloe Cup test, it is hard to read too much into this match.

Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow shared the halfback duties; Ardie Savea and Sam Cane the openside role.

The All Blacks will revert to their tried and trusted combinations in Sydney but if there is one player who now looks impossible to leave out, it is Ioane in the No11 jersey.

The game flowed his way but the 20-year-old scored two tries, set up others and caused problems with seemingly every touch. 

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