New Zealand has advanced to the quarter-finals of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in spectacular fashion, with Damian McKenzie playing a pivotal role in guiding the All Blacks to a resounding 73-0 victory over Uruguay at OL Stadium on Thursday.
In a remarkable display of dominance, New Zealand scored a staggering 11 tries, continuing their trend of putting up over 50 points against their opponents for the third consecutive match. Damian McKenzie, making a triumphant return to the full-back position for the first time since 2021, proved to be the driving force behind this remarkable performance.
Despite a frenzied opening quarter during which three tries (two for New Zealand and one for Uruguay) were disallowed upon review, Uruguay managed to make the All Blacks work for their points. However, once Damian McKenzie darted in for a try off the back of a scrum on the five-meter line, New Zealand’s offense became virtually unstoppable. Richie Mo’unga followed suit with another close-range scrum try, while McKenzie electrified the crowd by collecting his own chip on the touchline and delivering a one-handed pass to winger Will Jordan.
Just before halftime, scrum-half Cam Roigard secured the crucial bonus point. The All Blacks maintained their blistering pace in the second half, even with a flurry of substitutions, adding seven more tries to their tally. Winger Leicester Fainga’anuku shone in the second half with a remarkable hat-trick of tries, further solidifying New Zealand’s momentum as they head into the knockout stages.
After being named the Mastercard Player of the Match, Damian McKenzie commented, “I think it was a really enjoyable game, pretty free-flowing. It took us a long while to break Uruguay; they defended us really well, and then we were able to put some points on the board, so really proud of the win.”
He continued, “We have got to where we want to be, we know we have to get better from this week and move on to the quarters whoever we play. We’re really excited for what’s to come.”
All Blacks captain Sam Cane paid tribute to second-row Sam Whitelock, who achieved a historic milestone by earning his 150th cap, stating, “It’s a phenomenal achievement, that’s a lot of test matches. Anyone who has played a test match knows it’s not just a game on the weekend, it’s all the work that goes into it, and he is someone who optimizes professionalism.”
New Zealand’s head coach, Ian Foster, expressed his pride in the team’s performance, saying, “Really proud of it. I thought Uruguay really honed in in that first 20, they showed a massive degree of spirit and managed to slow the game down. We expected that sort of game, we talked about how this was going to turn into a bit of a bun fight at the breakdown.”
Foster added, “We held our composure very well and were quite clinical. It was a little bit different from last week in that we had to grind our way through that contact area. It was hard to get quick ball but I’m pleased with the patience.”
Uruguay’s captain, Andrés Vilaseca, acknowledged the challenge of facing the world’s best team, saying, “Today we were against the best team in the world, and sometimes you just have to keep pushing and try your best. We can be very proud of ourselves.”
Los Teros head coach Esteban Meneses praised his team’s efforts, saying, “I am very proud of the players and the staff. We came here to make history. New Zealand are the best team in the world. I love the passion of the players. It’s incredible. They play with their heart. They are very good players and very good people. I love them.”