A second stuttering performance from the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup has accounted for Namibia 58-14 at London’s Olympic Stadium.
An Olympic-sized victory was predicted for the world champions but they stuttered through the gears against their 20th-ranked opponents, scoring nine tries to one.
Wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea bagged try-scoring doubles for a New Zealand side that led 34-6 at halftime but lacked rhythm against the stubborn Africans in a stop-start second spell.
New Zealand skip clear at the top of pool C following their opening 26-16 win over Argentina which was also a patchy performance sealed by a late flourish.
Namibia had lost their previous 15 RWC games, conceding 65 points on average, but were muscular enough up front to slow their big-name opponents and took advantage of their only real attacking chance.
First five-eighth Theuns Kotze landed three penalties before the biggest roar of the night was triggered by a 51st minute try to second five-eighth Johan Deysel, who powered over in two tackles.
An All Blacks team featuring 11 changes to the starting line-up, including a first Test as skipper for Sam Cane, didn’t go close to the century of points that some commentators had tipped.
That prospect loomed as a possibility after they surged 15-0 ahead inside 10 minutes through early tries to No.8 Victor Vito and Milner-Skudder.
The All Blacks were forced to make just 13 tackles in a dominant first half but mistakes prevented the floodgates from opening.
Malakai Fekitoa and first five-eighth Beauden Barrett – who finished with 16 points following a modest goalkicking display – scored tries before Milner-Skudder bagged his second on the stroke of halftime.
Savea scored his first try of the year before errors and stoppages began to plague the game in the second stanza.
They could only score once, through replacement fullback Ben Smith, while Namibian prop Jaco Engels was in sin bin for a professional foul.
Savea snared his second before hooker Codie Taylor benefited from some outrageous quick hands from Milner-Skudder on the stroke of fulltime.
Reserve halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow played the last 33 minutes in his first Test appearance since badly injuring himself against South Africa a year ago.
The All Blacks have an eight-day wait until their third game against Georgia in Cardiff on October 2.