Rugby World Cup: Leicester Fainga'anuku hat-trick sees All Blacks seal quarter-final spot with routine victory over Uruguay

The All Blacks have sealed their spot in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, overcoming a slow start to defeat Uruguay 73-0 at Lyon's OL Stadium.

Winger Leicester Fainga'anuku marked a rare start with a hat-trick, while doubles to Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan caught the eye, as the All Blacks finished strong.

After making nine changes to the side that dispatched Italy at the same venue a week ago, coach Ian Foster will be frustrated by a disjointed performance from his side, now aiming to peak at the right time as the knockout stage approaches.  

Handling errors and an understandable initial lack of cohesion given the rotated nature of the side counted against the All Blacks, who initally were made to work by a plucky South American outfit.

Damian McKenzie against Uruguay.
Damian McKenzie against Uruguay. Photo credit: Photosport

Despite the lopsided nature of the scoreline, more than one fringe All Black would be right to feel as though an opportunity had been missed, with Foster adamant there are still places in his first-choice 23 up for grabs.  

While the result was never in doubt, scoring 11 tries against a second-tier nation – having run in 14 against a top-tier Italy last week shows the gulf between the All Blacks' first and second string.  

The All Blacks will now wait on other results, namely France v Italy and Ireland v Scotland, to learn their next opponent as the knockout stage nears.  

Facing Uruguay for the first time in a test match, the All Blacks initially struggled against the South Americans, who were content to play the game at their pace, rather than force the issue.

A break from Will Jordan ultimately yielded no score, as Luke Jacobson was called for a neck roll, before Cam Roigard knocked on after appearing to cross over for the opening try.

To make matters worse, Tyrel Lomax – making his first start since a nasty cut to his upper thigh against South Africa – was withdrawn in the opening 10 minutes, with what appeared to be a knee issue.

Will Jordan had a double against Uruguay.
Will Jordan had a double against Uruguay. Photo credit: Getty Images

Uruguay looked to have opened the scoring themselves when flanker Manuel Ardao dived over in the left corner, only for a try-saving tackle by Anton Lienert-Brown to keep the All Blacks' sheet clean.

In the 16th minute, Damian McKenzie appeared to have scored, only for another neck roll, this time by Richie Mo'unga resulted in the third disallowed try of the opening spell.  

But McKenzie wouldn't be denied a second time, as the livewire fullback finally scored the first points of the evening from the back of a scrum, midway through the first half.  

The All Blacks' attacking scrum proved fruitful not long after, as Mo'unga atoned for his earlier mistake with the second try of the night, and doubled his side's scoreline.  

With a two-try buffer, and any early nerves seemingly settled, McKenzie had a huge part to play in the All Blacks' third. Gathering his own kick down the right touchline, an offload back infield landed perfectly in the arms of Will Jordan, who made no mistake with the tryline in front of him.  

Roigard secured the All Blacks' bonus point before the break, throwing a dummy and beating two defenders from the back of another scrum to grab his third try of the tournament after a double against Namibia.  

Ahead 26-0 at halftime, the floodgates expectedly opened in the second, as Fletcher Newell barged over from close range to open the scoring in the second spell and tick off his first points in the black jersey.  

Fainga'anuku scored the sixth when he was sent over on the left thanks to a cutout pass from Will Jordan, before McKenzie dived over for his second, and was joined by Jordan on two to bring up the 50.  

Fainga'anuku became the third player to notch a double, before Tamaiti Williams joined Newell in scoring his first test try.

Newell added to the All Blacks injury worries when he limped from the field in the final 10 minutes, seeing both loosehead props fail to complete the game, and forcing a reshuffle.

Fainga'aunku completed his hat-trick in the final minutes, sending the All Blacks safely into the quarter-finals on the back of a victory.  

While beaten, Uruguay can exit the tournament with pride after causing problems for the likes of France and the All Blacks, as they continue a push towards more regular test matches against top-tier sides.  

Friday's win was all the more special for Sam Whitelock, who became the first All Black to play 150 tests, a week after surpassing Richie McCaw as New Zealand's most-capped player.  

All Blacks 73 (McKenzie 2, Mo'unga, Jordan 2, Roigard, Newell, Fainga'anuku 3, Williams tries; Mo'unga 5, McKenzie 2, B.Barrett 2 conversions) 
Uruguay 0