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All Blacks v Fiji Stat Attack

  • By Peter Marriott

New Zealand v Fiji: Won 57-23

New Zealand and Fiji met for the first time in an official test match at Christchurch during pool play at the 1987 Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks won 74-13 and have since gone on to win the following five matches 71-5 (at Albany in 1997), 68-18 (Wellington in 2002), 91-0 (Albany in 2005), 60-14 (Dunedin in 2011) and 57-23 in this latest encounter, once again in Dunedin.

The All Blacks have aggregated 421 points made up of 66 tries, 47 conversions and five penalties. Fiji has aggregated 73 points made up of nine tries (including a penalty try), three conversions and seven penalties.

The All Blacks have passed 50 points in all of their six matches against Fiji but the 57 points in this match are the fewest they have scored to date. Conversely, Fiji’s 23 points are the most they have scored in a match against the All Blacks.

The All Blacks led 21-11 at the break, the lowest halftime total they have scored against Fiji, whilst Fiji registered their highest-ever halftime score against the All Blacks.

Only one All Black who appeared in this test against Fiji also played in their previous encounter, also at Dunedin, on 22 July 2011. That was Sam Whitelock who substituted for debutant Jarrad Hoeata. That test was, incidentally, the last to be played at Carisbrook.

The All Blacks have played a total of 46 test matches in Dunedin, at three different venues. Their first test was a one-off held at Tahuna Park in 1905 followed by 38 matches at Carisbrook. In September 2012 the All Blacks appeared for the first time at the new Forsyth Barr Stadium and have so far won all seven of their matches played at this ground. Overall the All Blacks have won 40 times in Dunedin, lost five and drawn once.

The All Blacks have not now been beaten in their second match of a new season for the last 27 years. Since losing 20-23 against France at Auckland on 3 July 1994, they have now gone 27 matches without defeat although they did draw (16-16) with South Africa at Wellington in 2019.

The eighth of the nine tries scored by the All Blacks against Fiji was the 3000th to be scored in all of their test matches – the last try took the actual total to 3001: 2197 scored by the All Blacks and 804 by all of their opposition sides combined.

Of the 2197 test tries scored by the All Blacks, exactly 1000 of them have been scored in the first half of a match.

There were nine new players in this match who did not appear in last week’s match against Tonga. This took the number of All Blacks used in the first two matches to 32, including five who made their test debut.

Ethan de Groot made his debut in this match becoming All Black #1197 but “only” the 881st to have appeared in a test. He is the 34th player to represent Southland in his first match and the first from that province since Elliot Dixon made his debut against Wales, also at Dunedin, in June 2016.

Of the 23 All Blacks who appeared during the match, five were born overseas. They were Tyrel Lomax (Australia), Sevu Reece (Fiji), Nepo Laulala (Samoa), Finlay Christie (Scotland) and Shannon Frizell (Tonga).

The last time five overseas-born players appeared during an All Black test was against South Africa at Hamilton on 12 September 2009. A total of 146 test matches were played in between.

Aaron Smith became the 71st different player to captain New Zealand in a test match and the 10th halfback to do so. The very first halfback to captain the All Blacks was Fred Roberts who led the side for the first of his three tests against Australia at Sydney in June 1910. The most recent captain at halfback prior to Smith was Justin Marshall who was in charge for four tests. His final match (drawn) was against England at Twickenham in December 1997.

David Kirk has led the All Blacks the most times from the halfback position (11) followed by Frank Kilby and Justin Marshall with four apiece.

Aaron Smith has set a new All Black record for having to wait the longest in terms of tests played before being appointed captain. This was his 98th test match and he narrowly “beat” the previous record holder Sam Whitelock, who did not lead the side for the first time until his 96th test match. As a comparison three recent former captains namely Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Sam Cane first led the side on their 25th, 46th and 26th match respectively. At the other end of the scale seven players were made captain in their first test (including the first three to ever lead the side), the most recent being Andy Leslie, against Australia at Sydney in May 1974.

All Black captains have tended to be appointed from the forwards and in recent years this has been very much the case. Of the 599 tests the All Blacks have now played, 504 have been captained by a forward and just 95 by a back. The most popular position for a captain has been at flanker which has provided 207 instances and the least popular is wing with just two matches having been captained from that position.

Since Mils Muliaina led the side from fullback against Italy at Christchurch in June 2009, there has been just one instance of a back being in charge before Aaron Smith. That was Ben Smith at fullback in the match against Samoa at Auckland in June 2017. There were 151 tests played between Muliaina’s appearance and Aaron Smith’s.

Aaron Smith is just the second player to captain the All Blacks in a test whilst representing Manawatu. The first was Rod MacKenzie: against Australia at Sydney on 13 August 1938 which happened to be the last test played by New Zealand for eight years due to World War II.

As mentioned above, Smith is the 71st All Black test captain and the two appointed immediately before him were Sam Whitelock (#69) and his brother Luke (#70). By coincidence all three were born in Palmerston North and all attended Feilding High School. None of the previous 68 test captains were born in Palmerston North.

Dane Coles scored four tries to establish a new New Zealand test record for most tries by a forward. The previous record of three tries had been shared by Ian Kirkpatrick against Australia at Sydney on 15 June 1968, and Troy Flavell against Tonga at Albany on 16 June 2000. Both players were unique in that Kirkpatrick’s tries were scored after he had replaced captain and No 8 Brian Lochore, whilst Flavell had started at Lock in his first-ever test.

Coles went on as a replacement for Hooker Codie Taylor after 50 minutes and scored at the 52, 64, 73 and 76 minute mark meaning his four tries took him just 24 minutes to collect. However, on the same day (10th), and approximately 18,600 kilometres away in the test match played between Ireland and the United States at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the Irish Hooker Ronan Kelleher also crossed the line four times. Kelleher, who started the match, scored at the 24, 30, 44 and 54 minute mark which meant his four tries took six minutes longer to
accumulate than Coles’ did. The previous record for most tries scored by a Hooker in a test match was three which was held by several players. So strictly speaking the new record is now held solely by Ronan Kelleher because he started in his match.

It must have been catching because also on the 10th, at Twickenham, the England Hooker Jamie Blamire scored three tries against Canada. That is a total of 11 tries scored in three matches by three Hookers on the same date.

David Havili, who made his All Black debut in 2017, played his first test since the match against Australia at Brisbane in October 2017. He started against Fiji having come off the bench in his three previous test appearances. Havili scored a try on debut and now has three including a pair in the match against Fiji. He had missed 35 matches since his last appearance.

Havili picked up the first yellow card for the All Blacks in 2021.

Brodie Retallick also made his return to the All Blacks having last played against Wales in the World Cup Play Off match in 2019. However, due to the shortened 2020 season he missed just seven matches.

After just four test matches Will Jordan has scored a total of eight tries. He failed to score on debut but his last three matches have produced two tries (against Argentina), five (against Tonga) and now one against Fiji.

Fiji introduced three new players to test rugby: Eneriko Buliruarua, Peniami Narisia and Manasa Mataele. A total of 751 players have now made at least one appearance for Fiji at test level.

Mesulame Kunavula, who had played just one previous test and scored a try, (against Georgia at Edinburgh last year) scored his second try in as many games.

Albert Tuisue scored his first try in test rugby.

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