NEW Zealand breezed past Toa Samoa 38-8 in their Rugby League World Cup opener in Auckland, but admitted to a few nerves as they laboured through a helter- skelter first half.
Despite an ill-disciplined showing in which they made 17 errors and completed barely 60 per cent of their sets, the Kiwis were too good on Saturday for their Polynesian rivals.
Riding out Samoa's early crash-and-bash style and heading into halftime with a 10-4 advantage, the Kiwis piled on five tries to one in the second half. Coach David Kidwell was pleased with his side's grit and determination against burly opponents, but acknowledged some things were amiss.
"At times, on our line, I thought we really showed that good brotherhood where we're trying to make everyone belong," Kidwell told reporters. "It's our first World Cup game and a lot of players hadn't played a lot of football, but there's an excitement there that definitely gets me going. "I give everyone a pass mark for the effort and grit as a team but, as we get on in the tournament, we need to be smarter in some of our passes and decisions."
Despite Jordan Rapana's early Kiwis try, Samoa took the match to their opponents early, dominating in the tackle and forcing plenty of mistakes.
Yet while Kidwell's troops frequently shot themselves in the foot, their more- expansive style and obvious endeavour eventually paid dividends. Shaun Johnson bagged his side's second of the night in the 20th minute, capitalising on a Simon Mannering offload, before Kiwi-born Samoan winger Ken Maumalo
pegged one back for his side with a well-worked move down the left. But Samoa's joy proved short-lived.
The Kiwis ran riot in the second half as a visibly fatigued Samoan outfit wilted, with tries to Kodi Nikorima, the electric Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Test debutants Brad Takairangi, Isaac Liu and Nelson Asofa-Solomona ending the match as a contest.
Joseph Paulo scored a last-second Samoan consolation.
Kidwell's Kiwis next week clash with Scotland, against whom they surprisingly drew 18-18 in last year's Four Nations campaign.
However he'll be forced to make do without centre Gerard Beale, who collapsed mid-play in the second half with a suspected broken ankle.
They'll look to bring a new player into the squad next week.
NEW ZEALAND 38 (N Asofa-Solomona S Johnson I Liu K Nikorima J Rapana B Takairangi R Tuivasa-Sheck tries S Johnson 5 goals) bt SAMOA 8 (K Maumalo J Paulo tries) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: James Childs
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