New Zealand battled to victory against a dogged Italy in Christchurch yesterday but coach Graham Henry will be concerned heading into the Tri-Nations following a display similar to those against the French recently.
New Zealand scored just one try – through Joe Rokocoko – in the first half to lead 13-3 after a shaky opening 40 minutes. Further tries for Isaac Ross and debutant George Whitelock finally gave the home side breathing room but it was far from a vintage performance against a team they have hammered in recent encounters.
Italy coach Nick Mallett got his wish for a competitive 80-minute performance and a good defensive effort, and will leave their Australasia tour contented despite failing to get a win.
NEW ZEALAND M Muliaina; L Masaga, I Toeava, M Nonu, J Rokocoko; L McAlister B Leonard; W Crockett, K Mealamu, J Afoa; B Thorn, I Ross; J Kaino, T Latimer, K Read Subs O Franks for Afoa, 59 mins; A de Malmanche for Mealamu, 75 mins; C Jane for Masaga, 77 mins
ITALY L McLean; P Robertson, G Canale, G Garcia, Mi Bergamasco; C Gower, T Tebaldi; S Perugini, L Ghiraldini, I Rouyet; Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami; A Zanni, M Bergamasco, S Parisse Subs F Staibano for Fernandez-Rouyet, 51 mins; M Pratichetti for Canale, 52 mins; S Favaro for Zanni, 57 mins; C del Fava for Bortolami, 62 mins; H Sbaraglini for Ghiraldini, 63 mins; K Burton for Garcia, 71 mins
Referee G Clancy (Ireland)