All Blacks stutter to win over Georgia

The All Blacks have delivered their messiest performance yet at the Rugby World Cup, stuttering to a 43-10 win over staunch Georgia in Cardiff.

The defending champions scored 22 points in the first 22 minutes, including a spectacular opening try to Waisake Naholo and a double to fellow-wing Julian Savea.

However, the four early tries were followed by just three more in a stuttering performance in front of a sold-out crowd at Millennium Stadium.

It was a third unconvincing pool display following wins over Argentina, 26-16, and Namibia, 58-14, although it is enough to guarantee New Zealand’s place in the quarter-finals.

Their first-ever game against world No.13 Georgia was an error-ridden effort, dotted by loose passes and handling mistakes.

Captain Richie McCaw, whose demands that his team lift their performance on Friday went unanswered, limped out of the game in the 60th minute.

Sporting ice packs on his shin and hip, it was unclear how serious the damage was to the veteran flanker.

His team lacked physicality against the muscular Europeans, who chose to field a largely second-string team.

The All Blacks were often the architects of their struggles, with their attempts to play at speed coming unstuck against an obdurate defence.

They made 10 handling errors in the first half alone.

Naholo made a memorable start in his first Test since fracturing his leg on Test debut against Argentina 11 weeks ago.

The 24-year-old used sheer speed and strength in a sizzling 60 metre solo run with his first touch of the ball in the second minute.

Georgia struck straight back through an opportunistic try to fullback Beka Tsuklauri off a New Zealand turnover.

New Zealand established control through Savea’s early double and another to hooker Dane Coles before errors began to permeate their game.

Up 22-10 at halftime, they finally pushed clear through a try to No.8 Kieran Read before late tries Savea and replacement back Malakai Fekitoa.

Savea’s hat-trick gives him a tournament-leading five following his double against Namibia.

New Zealand’s pool campaign finishes against Tonga in Newcastle next Friday before a return to Cardiff for their quarter-final.

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