A double to Jamayne Isaako in first game for the Kiwis since 2019 has helped New Zealand to a dominant 50-0 win over Samoa in their Pacific Championships clash at Eden Park on Saturday.
Named the Ken Irvine Medallist following his 24 tries during the Telstra Premiership season, Isaako’s 25th and 26th tries of 2023 gave Michael Maguire’s side a commanding early lead that they wouldn’t look back from, running away with the contest to secure their first shut-out win on home soil in over two decades.
Playing their first game since a narrow defeat to Australia in last year’s World Cup semi final, New Zealand’s combination of power through the middle and quality work from their outside backs was simply irrepressible as Samoa struggled to generate sustained attacking pressure or go-forward.
Captain James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Joseph Tapine all starred early on for the Kiwis – along with a try-scoring Nelson Asofa-Solomona off the bench – with a blockbuster clash against the likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Payne Haas on the cards next week when they face Australia in Melbourne.
Named at fullback ahead of Golden Boot winner Joseph Manu, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad made an impact early for the Kiwis with his clever cut-out sending Isaako over for the first points of the game after 13 minutes.
The 2023 Ken Irvine Medallist was streaking away down the sideline not long after following a mazy run from Matt Timoko, with his Canberra teammate in Tapine sending Jahrome Hughes over at the end of the set to extend the lead to 12-0.
New Zealand’s third try in 11 minutes threatened to open the floodgates, with Isaako the beneficiary again of some clever work in the build-up – wrestling his way past Storm young gun Sua Fa’alogo to push the lead out to 18-0, which is how it would remain at the interval despite a number of close calls for the Kiwis.
Asofa-Solomona would make it a perfect start to the second half for New Zealand when he crashed over from close range before Isaiah Papali’i made it 28-0 with half an hour still to play after racing through to collect a Hughes grubber to score.
Denied a try in the first half when his arm grazed the sideline as he put the ball down, Ronaldo Mulitalo would eventually have his four-pointer when he crossed in the 60th minute – doubling up late on for the first brace of his international career – with late tries to Briton Nikora and Fisher-Harris took the winning margin to 50.
An obstruction denied Tommy Talau Samoa’s best points-scoring opportunity of the game when Daejarn Asi was ruled to have taken an advantage behind the lead runner, with the Kiwis posting a shut-out win in an international fixture for the first time since a 48-0 win over France at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Having already crossed for the first try of the game, Jamayne Isaako showed a clean pair of heels to cap off a sweeping move to the right – racing clear of his opposite number in Murray Taulagi before spinning through several tackle attempts by Sua Fa’alogo to extend the Kiwis lead out to three converted tries.