Daniel Carter's left boot has underlined his value ahead of the 2015 World Cup, with the first five slotting 20 points to give a tense 25-16 victory over Samoa in the All Blacks' first visit to Apia.
Some members of the team described the conditions as the toughest they'd ever played in.
Carter's successful goal-kicking allowed the New Zealand team to build scoreboard pressure in a tight first half. He then produced a pinpoint cross-kick for winger George Moala to score a try on debut to open a 19-3 lead after half-time.
Samoa first five Tusi Pisi slotted nine points for the home side, who put the All Blacks under pressure in the second half - getting back to 22-16 after Alafoti Fa'osiliva's try following two storming runs up the middle of the park.
Carter, however, slotted his sixth penalty with five minutes remaining to give the 2011 world champions their narrowest victory over Samoa in six matches.
'What true Test match rugby is all about'
Wednesday was the first time the All Blacks have played a test in Samoa, with the match drawing a capacity crowd of 8104 at Apia Park.
Carter said it wasn't a perfect game and he felt a bit rusty but he was happy with the way he kicked. He said he hoped to make more progress during the Rugby Championship.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said he wasn't sure words could justify the match.
"I'd like to say to the Manu Samoa team, the way you played - that's what true Test match rugby is all about. We said before we came that was what we'd get... and that's what you boys did."
Coach Steve Hansen complimented his side, many of whom hadn't played for four or five weeks, in conditions some described as the toughest they'd ever played in.
Hansen admitted they were a bit scratchy and had plenty to work on. But he said that was to be expected.
The All Blacks scored 50 or more points in four of their five previous games against Samoa, including a 101-14 thumping in their most recent match in New Plymouth in 2008.
The home side, however, capitalised on New Zealand's typical slow start to a Test season, with the All Blacks' combinations looking rusty and timing off-kilter.
New Zealand's work at the back of the breakdown was also sloppy. A delay in delivery, meanwhile, allowed the Samoan defence to put pressure on the first-up runners, midfield and outside backs and deny them time to attack.
Despite creating numerous chances in the first half, Carter kept the scoreboard ticking as he slotted four penalty goals, while Pisi landed a long-range shot.
Moala scored his try when he latched on to Carter's kick, giving his side a 16-point advantage - before Pisi brought the hosts back into the game with two successful penalties.
The All Blacks pack then exerted pressure on the Samoan scrum, causing it to collapse and allowing Carter an opportunity to extend the lead with a 50-metre penalty.
Fa'osiliva's try, however, brought the capacity crowd into the match and it was not until another poor scrum earned another New Zealand penalty, which Carter slotted with five minutes remaining, that the visitors would have felt safe.
Samoa winger Alesana Tuilagi lamented the narrow loss but was pleased the All Blacks had finally made the trip to play their first test in the Pacific Islands.
He thanked McCaw and the "number one team in the world".
"I hope this is the start of a campaign where you come back. And we try again. And again. And again."
Manu Samoa coach Stephen Betham said his team now knows what they need to work on, after holding the tourists to the lowest score by New Zealand in a Test against them, with the nine-point losing margin their smallest.
Betham said his team will take away a lot from this Test in the lead-up to the World Cup in September.
"If there's any team you need to gauge yourself on before heading to the world cup, it's the number one team in the world, and that's exactly what we did today. By fronting up, we know now what we need to work on, if we stick together like we did today, then we can compete any of the top five teams in the world."
Looking to the World Cup
At the 2015 World Cup in England, New Zealand will launch the defence of their title with a Pool C encounter against Argentina at Wembley. The other teams in the group are Tonga, Georgia and Namibia.
Samoa have been drawn in Pool B alongside South Africa, Scotland, Japan and the United States.
The All Blacks appear to have got through the game without any injury concerns.
All four debutants got time for the All Blacks: George Moala started, while prop Nepo Laulala, halfback Brad Weber and centre Charlie Ngatai came off the bench.
The All Blacks now return home to play their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Christchurch in a rare Friday night Test, on the 18th of July.