Sloppy in the first half but clinical in the second, a flurry of tries in the second stanza made the New Zealand Kiwis win seem better than it was as they ran out 38-8 winners over Samoa in Auckland.
As both teams produced dogged, determined first half performances, New Zealand only went into the lead holding a 6-point lead at 10-4.
On paper, the result may look flattering but the Kiwis will be lamenting many missed opportunities as they made a total of 17 errors with their game-plan often going awry.
As the Kiwis found their second wind, Samoa failed to keep up and will be lamenting their own missed opportunities with repeated errors coming out of their own half.
The Kiwis burst out of the blocks as tries to Jordan Rapana and Shaun Johnson gave them a 10-0 lead before Samoa hit back on the stroke of half-time.
A lovely cut-out ball found a rampaging Ken Maumalo who showed off his good finishing skills to give Samoa some confidence heading into the second half.
That confidence was soon shattered, however, as a three-try blitz to debutants Brad Takairangi and Isaac Liu, as well as Kodi Nikorima, gave the Kiwis a 16-point buffer.
The one sour note for the Kiwis was a severe leg injury to Gerard Beale, who was carried off on a stretcher with what is feared to be a broken leg.
Further Kiwis tries to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who reached out with Inspector Gadget-like arms, made the scoreline look good.
Samoa grabbed a consolation through veteran Joseph Paulo as the Samoans were left to rue missed opportunities throughout the contest.
He may have given his players a pass mark for their opening performance but Kiwis coach David Kidwell admits that his side must improve moving forward.
“We have got some [improving] to do, and the guys have recognised that,” Kidwell said.
“17 errors for the game, we are at the start of the tournament and that’s definitely something we need to work on.
“Completing at 62 percent, as we get through the tournament and play better quality teams, we need to make sure that we are a lot better in that area.
“We have got to be smarter in some of our passes and decisions.”
Samoan coach Matt Parish did not mince his words. He lamented his side’s pedestrian errors and knows it cost them the game and opportunities.
“You can’t toss garbage up and expect to compete, especially against a team that good,” Parish said.
“Our second-half performance, and look the Kiwis played very well, but we were our own worst enemies.
“We tried hard but we made schoolboy errors.”
3. Shaun Johnson
2. Isaac Liu
- Nelson Asofa-Solomona
New Zealand 38 (Jordan Rapana, Shaun Johnson, Brad Takairangi, Kodi Nikorima, Isaac Liu, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Nelson Asofa-Solomona tries; Shaun Johnson 5 goals) def. Samoa 8(Ken Maumalo, Joseph Paulo tries) at Mount Smart Stadium. HT: 10-4. Crowd: 17,857.