The All Blacks delivered a mixed performance to beat Canada 79-15 in their final pool match in Rugby World Cup 2011. The win came just hours after the news that Daniel Carter has been ruled out of the tournament with a groin injury was delivered, making their task of achieving their World Cup dream that much harder.
A good start saw the All Blacks shoot out to a 37-8 lead at the break, before turning around and scoring another 42 points to claim a comfortable win.
Despite this, there still remains plenty to work on for the tournament favourites.
The main issue came in the amount of needless mistakes. Too often bad passes were thrown, balls dropped and aimless kicks made; especially in the period just after the break, where the All Blacks became messy. While it wasn't a big deal in terms of the game against Canada, the problems need to be addressed as they would have been costly against better competition..
Still, there were also plenty of positives to take from the performance.
The first came in the loose-forward play, who were once again outstanding. Jerome Kaino continues to impress and shows why he has been called the best player at the tournament by many, while Victor Vito was outstanding filling the No. 7 jersey left open by injured captain Richie McCaw. Kieran Read made his return and gave a solid performance, but looked slightly off-pace, as was to be expected.
New Zealand's set piece was also very good, with their scrum proving dominant throughout the entire game—although that says as much about the Canada scrum as it does about the All Blacks.
Colin Slade had the task of filling the massive void left by Dan Carter and performed reasonably well considering the circumstances. He played outside Jimmy Cowan, who threw him some terrible passes, leaving Slade to clean up the scraps. He was dangerous running, looked threatening with ball in hand, while also defending well. Despite a few mistakes, he's worth persisting with.
The midfield and outside backs ran rings around the Canadian defence, scoring try after try, with Zac Guilford scoring four in his World Cup debut.
All in all, it was a good performance with a few basic things to work on and leaves them well-placed for the coming knockout matches.
The All Blacks will now progress on to play Argentina, who defeated Georgia, in the quarterfinals, where they will be heavily favoured against the South Americans to progress to the semifinals. In saying this, we've said that before. Who knows, Argentina could get up. Funnier things have happened.