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Strong finish sees All Blacks home

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Nov 2012     Getty Images

It was only in the last quarter that New Zealand were finally able to break the Italian shackles and the final margin was no indication of the spirited effort mounted by a home team which was finally worn down by the class and pace of the visitors.

New Zealand's depth of resources were borne out as flanker Sam Cane made the most of his start to have a fine support game while prop Charlie Faumuina made the most of the tough scrum contest, and added his bit in the loose. Before he left the field with an injury, Beauden Barrett provided evidence of his utility class at fullback with a fine all-round display.

New Zealand had issues protecting the ball at breakdowns, during the first half, and paid the price as the Italians were quick to put the ball to good use and ensured the defence of the All Blacks was well tested.

It wasn't able to contain the Italians in the26th minute however as the home team eschewed the chance to kick for goal from a penalty, opting for a lineout instead.

Launching a drive they created the platform and after two scrums close to the line it was first five-eighths Luciano Orquera who weighted his pass outside to Alberto Sqarbi perfectly for the second five-eighths to reach out in the tackle to score. Orquera's conversion got Italy back within the seven-point margin.

Earlier, after 18 minutes, a break by New Zealand first five-eighths Aaron Cruden from a midfield scrum saw centre Conrad Smith cut back to pick up the ball when Cruden was tackled. He ran into space and then linked inside where captain and No.8 Kieran Read was in perfect support to sidestep a defender en route to scoring the try. Cruden landed the conversion to go alongside penalty goals landed in the 12th and 19th minutes.

New Zealand lost hooker Keven Mealamu three minutes into the second half with a calf muscle injury but a penalty goal soon after by Cruden extended the lead while a 48th minute lineout take by lock Ali Williams set in train the build-up to the second All Blacks try.

It came after Conrad Smith found wing Julian Savea coming into the backline to provide a quality pass for second five-eighths Ma's Nonu to score.

Italy responded with a 52nd minute dropped goal to Orquera.

New Zealand showed far greater retention of its cohesion when the teams made their substitutions midway through the second half and the combination was borne out with slick inter-passing before replacement fullback Cory Jane crossed in the 67th minute.

The same forces were in play before Nonu, on the blindside, fed wing Julian Savea in for his ninth Test try. Then with five minutes left, Jane was into the backline again at speed and he was able to crease the simplest of tries for Savea.

Italy's spirit was maintained well into the second half with Orquera proving a lively concertmaster for his backline where fullback Andrea Masi was a safe custodian who proved more than useful on the break. Wing Mirco Bergamasco looked dangerous and almost broke clear in the first half while prop Martin Castrogiovanni showed all his experience, even if unable to break the scrum shackles imposed by Tony Woodcock.

Scorers:

Italy 10 (Alberto Sqarbi try; Luciano Orquera con, dropped goal) New Zealand 42 (Kieran Read, Ma'a Nonu, Cory Jane, Julian Savea 2 tries; Aaron Cruden 4 con, 3 pen). HT: 7-13