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Concerns for New Zealand despite big win over Georgia

Published 02/10/2015

Julian Savea, front, scores his third try against Georgia
Julian Savea, front, scores his third try against Georgia

New Zealand moved into the World Cup quarter-finals by predictably beating Georgia in bonus-point fashion - but it was a performance laced with errors.

And they appeared to suffer an injury scare when skipper Richie McCaw made a 60th-minute exit after being on the receiving end of a crunching tackle and immediately had ice appplied to two separate areas on his leg, summing up New Zealand's night.

The world champion All Blacks' 43-10 Millennium Stadium triumph tightened their grip on Pool C and secured a last-eight spot, yet coach Steve Hansen will have been left totally unimpressed.

New Zealand scored four first-half tries, wing Julian Savea crossing twice and his fellow wing Waisake Naholo - back in action 10 weeks after breaking his leg - also touching down, while hooker Dane Coles went over wide out.

But they were restricted to only three second-half scores, with number eight Kieran Read adding a 48th-minute try and Savea completing his hat-trick before substitute Malakai Fekitoa crossed.

But the biggest cheers among a 69,000 crowd were reserved for Georgia, whose captain and flanker Mamuka Gorgodze was named man of the match.

Full-back Beka Tsiklauri claimed an early breakaway try while fly-half Lasha Malaguradze outshone his celebrated opposite number Dan Carter in the goalkicking department.

While an out-of-sorts Carter missed three conversions out of seven, Malaguradze added the extras to Tsiklauri's try and landed a long-range penalty.

New Zealand only scored 21 points after the 23rd minute and with Ireland or France looming in the quarter-finals, they will need a vast improvement after making more mistakes during one game than sometimes in an entire season.

It took New Zealand just 73 seconds to open up Georgia's defence, as slick midfield passing resulted in Naholo powering through a huge gap to touch down unopposed, with Carter's conversion making it 7-0.

Georgia, though, responded just three minutes later by scoring the quickest try in their World Cup history when Tsiklauri reacted rapidly to a bouncing ball in open play, made the most of his good fortune and finished off in style.

The score sparked wild celebrations among his team-mates, with Malaguradze's conversion pegging back New Zealand, but the All Blacks were back in front three minutes later when Savea bundled over Tsiklauri for a trademark try.

Malaguradze kicked a penalty from just inside New Zealand's half to cut the deficit, but the All Blacks went in to overdrive as Savea scored again before a brilliant handling move ended with McCaw delivering a scoring pass to Coles.

Carter missed his third successive conversion attempt, but the world champions had a try-scoring bonus point inside 23 minutes and appeared well on their way to a landslide win.

But the first-half's remaining 18 minutes belonged to Georgia, whose scrummaging prowess had New Zealand in all kinds of trouble and their aggressive defence - illustrated through one crunching tackle by centre Davit Kacharava on All Blacks full-back Ben Smith - prevented further tries before the break.

It was a mighty effort by the underdogs, who showed no sign of being overawed by the occasion, as New Zealand's early class and supremacy was mysteriously replaced by a disjointed, error-strewn display.

Carter was as guilty as most, taking wrong options and handling poorly, while centre Sonny Bill Williams was not much better.

Only when the All Blacks moved possession wide did they look threatening, and Georgia were more than happy to find themselves still firmly in the game midway through the third quarter.

Right on cue, New Zealand added a fifth try - albeit 30 minutes after their bonus-point score - when Read powered over from close range, and Carter's straightforward conversion took New Zealand 19 points clear.

But the floodgates failed to open, despite Savea's best efforts, and New Zealand know they have much to work on in their quest for a successful world title defence.

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