Julian Savea (Gallo Images)
Cardiff - Julian Savea scored a hat-trick of tries but New Zealand's rugby superstars took a battering before they overcame Georgia to become the first nation into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
The 43-10 result did not reflect the struggle by the All Blacks in the Millennium Stadium where the biggest cheer went to Georgia's tough tackling hero Mamuka Gorgodze as he was named man-of-the-match.
Captain Richie McCaw and coach Steve Hansen both admitted that it was not a great night for the team seeking to become the first to win back-to-back World Cups. But both said there was no reason to panic.
"I was a little disappointed with some of the errors we made, but that's an easy thing to fix," McCaw said.
"We're under no illusions it wasn't perfect out there but I thought the intensity around some of those contact areas was a definite step up."
"There's a lot of things we could have done better for sure. Our execution at times was not great," said Hansen.
Georgia physically matched the world champions, forcing them into elementary errors.
Lost lineouts and scrums, passes fired into empty spaces and penalties not finding touch - Dan Carter missed three conversions out of seven - showed the All Blacks were well out of tune with only one game against Tonga left before the knockout stages.
Starting their top available side against a Georgia team resting many of their best players, the All Blacks were expected to win comfortably. But they were only 22-10 up at half-time before adding three tries in the second half.
They were rattled by a Georgia team that used bone-jarring tackles and their powerful forward pack to shake the All Blacks.
With his first touch of the ball in his comeback game after a leg fracture in his maiden Test three months ago, Waisake Naholo sped 55 metres through the Georgian defence to touch down after just 80 seconds.
Any thoughts of a runaway win were quickly erased. Naholo lost the ball with his second touch and Georgia full back Beka Tsuklauri cashed in on their turnover luck, touching down under the posts. Neither side could believe it.
Lasha Malaguradze levelled the scores with the conversion and landed a 49-metre penalty to keep Georgia in touch at 12-10 after Savea had scored the All Blacks second try.
The early pace of the game appeared to be telling on Georgia and the defence cover was no where to be seen when Savea scored his second in a standard backline move from a scrum.
Dane Coles secured the bonus point fourth try in the 22nd minute dotting down wide out. Carter missed all three sideline conversion attempts however.
As errors kept mounting, New Zealand spent an awkward 30 minutes before they scored again.
From a long build up they eventually cracked the Georgian defence with Brodie Retallick crashing over and Carter added the extras.
The Georgians faded in the closing minutes Savea and Malakai Fekitoa added two further tries with Carter landing the extras.
Georgia's coach Milton Haig still came away a "proud" man.
"I asked the boys during the week and before the game to play with a bit of pride, for their country, to show the rugby world what Georgian rugby is about. For large parts of the game tonight that's what we did."
Haig said Georgia should be allowed into Europe's Six Nations event.
Although qualified for the last eight, there will undoubtedly be work to do before New Zealand meet Tonga next Friday in Newcastle.
"If we had one problem I think would be the easiest to fix in this team it would be skill execution. We've got plenty of talent," said Hansen.
"But at the moment we are working on some other things and the things we were working on tonight were pretty good. I wouldn't say our game was great but it doesn't have to be at the moment."
Hansen said even if the All Blacks had won by a much bigger score it would have done nothing for them.
McCaw went off in the second half and put an ice-pack on his leg, but dismissed fears of a serious injury.
"I just got a couple of bruises on my shin and quad. I could have carried on. A couple of days rest, and I will be fine," he said.