A stunning first-half performance helped New Zealand to a 41-10 victory over Tonga in the opening fixture of RWC 2011 on Friday.
A fine first-half performance helped New Zealand to a 41-10 victory over Tonga in the first game of the 2011 World Cup at Eden Park on Friday.
It was hardly a vintage 80 minutes but with the job done and dusted before the break, it is difficult to blame the hosts for taking their foot off the gas.
They carded six tries in all while the Tongans, who were unlucky not to take the second-half spoils after topping both the possession and territory statistics, responded thanks to a late try from replacement loosehead prop Alisona Taumalolo.
We had a sneaking feeling that a strong game here for Israel Dagg could make life very difficult for veteran Mils Muliaina to reclaim his number fifteen jersey. And so it happened as Crusader Dagg was a constant threat from full-back, scoring twice and claiming the opening score of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in the process.
New Zealand were sublime for many chunks of the fixture and the experiment of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu at centre gave more than a feeling that head coach Graham Henry had known about this combination for some time but kept it under wraps until the tournament kick-off. Rivals must now do their homework.
Japan are next on their schedule so expect plenty of changes in personnel for that, with Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and the entire back-three expected to be kept in cotton wool ahead of the France game. On this form and creating so many opportunities, one expects les bleus may struggle. As the aforementioned stats show, NZ don't need much to score.
It did take them ten minutes to cross the whitewash though as, following a Carter penalty five minutes before, Kahui busted two tacklers before recycled ball found Nonu who handed to Dagg for the simplest of scores. Carter missed the extras from wide on the left touchline.
Maybe there were still a few nerves at Eden Park as it took another nine minutes before the scorers were troubled again. This time it was the impressive Sonny Bill Williams who turned provider with a lovely inside offload to Isaia Toeava which led to Kahui getting over.
New Zealand were starting to turn the screw.
And so it proved as another Williams pass in the tackle to Toeava produced Dagg's second try before the full-back fed Kahui for try number four. The All Blacks had 29 points on their tally before a Kurt Morath penalty put the Tongans on the board on 40 minutes.
But it was a different Tonga after the break and in the first fifteen minutes Williams, Nonu, Toeava and Brad Thorn were all dropped in crunching tackles in reach of the try-line.
Kahui managed to break the second-half deadlock though, regathering his own chip kick and passing to the supporting blindside flanker Jerome Kaino who extended the lead.
But then came one of the biggest cheers of the night as Tonga, who had 6,000 supporters welcoming them at the airport upon arrival, crossed the line thanks to Taumalolo. The All Blacks had the final say though as Nonu scored late on to cap a professional showing.
Man of the match: It was a toss-up betwen Sonny Bill Williams for his assists and Richard Kahui for grabbing his opportunity on the wing with both hands. Kahui was just too good with two tries picked up – one of which was a well-finished score down the right touchline.
Moment of the match: The offload from Sonny Bill Williams back inside to Isaia Toeava was sublime. Without looking, SBW sent the ball behind his back and inside to the wing, who then handed the pill to a scoring Richard Kahui. Quality stuff that thrilled Eden Park.
Villain of the match: No bad-boy in what was a clean 80 minutes.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Dagg 2, Kahui 2, Kaino, Nonu
Con: Carter 3, Slade
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Isaia Toeava, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Cory Jane.
Tonga: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Viliame Iongi, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Andrew Ma'ilei, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Finau Maka (c), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joe Tu'ineau, 4 Paino Hehea, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ephraim Taukafa, 17 Alisona Taumalolo, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Samiu Vahafolau, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Alipate Fatafehi.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
By Adam Kyriacou