- Defending champions romp to bonus point victory
- Ma’a Nonu scores try on 100th All Black cap
- Man-of-the-match Nehe Milner Skudder touches down brace for New Zealand
Tonga played their heart out against New Zealand and kept the score tight in the first 40, but New Zealand turned on the style after the break to romp to victory.
The defending Champions encountered a tenacious Tonga side in Newcastle, and they were fortunate that the Pacific Nation were not awarded a penalty try on the cusp of half time, after captain Kieran Read was sent to the sin bin.
New Zealand were a different force at the restart with seven tries sealing a resounding win, including a brace for Man-of-the-match Nehe Milner Skudder.
Ma’a Nonu also crowned the occasion of his 100th All Black cap with the final try of the game.
Tonga played remarkably well to keep the game scoreless for 13 minutes, but quick hands in a tight section of pitch on the right wing left the Tongans dazed as Ben Smith wriggled through to score the opening try, which Dan Carter converted from a tight angle.
A fantastic spell of pressure from Tonga saw them attack New Zealand through 16 phases, before Kurt Morath was content on kicking them on to the scoreboard with a penalty on 26 minutes.
The All Blacks had a clear overlap to score a second try just a a few moments later, but Waisake Naholo was guilty of his side’s fourth handling error of the evening, carrying over from some sloppy play against Georgia.
Further uncharacteristically poor finishing looked as if it may prove costly for New Zealand, but the second try came through veteran prop Tony Woodcock who smashed over the line from close range.
Ben Smith was harshly penalised for a falling tip tackle, and Tonga charged toward the try line from the resulting lineout.
New Zealand found themselves a man short with two minutes of the half to play, as stand-in skipper Kieran Read illegally felled the rolling Tongan maul and was sent to the sin bin.
Tonga won four consecutive scrum penalties and referee John Lacey warned the Champions that one more would result in the penalty try.
A pile of bodies poured over the line with the clock in the red zone, but the TMO adjudged that there was no evidence of the ball being grounded, and the All Blacks would have been the happier side to hear the half time whistle, and hold on to their 14-3 lead.
Another 20 phases of Tongan pressure looked certain to result in a try, but after some huge collisions between both sets of players, they opted for the posts and Morath reduced the arrears to eight.
Read returned from the bin, and New Zealand made an immediate response with Nehe Milner-Skudder stepping inside two Tongans to land over the try line for his third of the tournament.
The imperious left foot of Carter swept home his third conversion of the match to make the score 21-6.
Mortath scored his third penalty of the evening but just seconds later Milner Skudder pounced on a teasing grubber kick through the crowd to score his second try of the evening.
Carter maintained his 100% record to finally put some real daylight between the teams.
Sonny Bill Williams had been on the pitch for less than four minutes before he sauntered through the posts unopposed for New Zealand’s fifth converted try of the match.
On 69 minutes it was Tonga’s turn to go down to 14, with substitute hooker Paula Ngauamo shown a yellow for a dangerous tip tackle on Carter.
The All Blacks wasted no time in making the most of their man advantage, and Sam Cane peeled off the back of a maul to dance his way through to the try line for his second of this World Cup.
There was still time for centurion Ma’a Nonu to score his 30th international try and fifth at World Cups, but Carter missed his final conversion and it ended 47-9.
What comes next for both
Concerns still linger regarding some sloppy play once again from New Zealand in the first half, particularly through unforced handling errors. Eventually their class told, but there will be plenty for France and Ireland to chew over as the loser of their clash faces the All Blacks in the quarter finals. Tonga matched them for large portions of the game, and mistakes will need to be ironed out if they are to avoid an early exit from a competition that they are expected to win.
Tonga finish Pool C in fourth place, with a respectable six points to their name, but they will rue not beating Georgia in their opening fixture. Failure to clinch third place means that their place at the next World Cup is not assured, and they will need to qualify for Japan the old fashioned way. Their heart cannot be questioned however, and they leave with their heads held high.
Man of the match: Nehe Milner-Skudder
The side stepping superstar scored a second half brace to place him joint second in the standings with four tries in this World Cup. Remarkably, the supersonic wing now has six tries in five caps for the All Blacks, and he provides Hansen with a selection headache with Julian Savea set to return for the quarter final. The 24-year-old carried brilliantly and sparked several attacks, and his offload right at the end selfishly set-up Nonu for a try on his 100th cap.
New Zealand: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13. Conrad Smith (Sonny Bill Williams. 62), 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Waisake Naholo (Beauden Barrett, 57); 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Aaron Smith (Tawera Kerr-Barlow 72); 8. Kieran Read, 7. Sam Cane, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Sam Whitelock, (Liam Messam 66), 4. Luke Romano (Brodie Retallick 49), 3. Owen Franks (Ben Franks 62), 2. Dane Coles (Keven Mealamu 66), 1. Tony Woodcock (Wyatt Crockett 42)
Tonga: 15. Vungakoto Lilo, 14. Telusa Veainu (Will Helu 66), 13. Siale Piutau, 12. Latiume Fosita, 11. Fetu’u Vainikolo; 10. Kurt Morath (Viliami Tahitua 62), 9. Sonatane Takulua (Samisoni Fisilau 69); 8. Viliami Ma’afu (Jack Ram 66), 7. Nili Latu, 6. Sione Kalamafoni, 5. Joseph Tuineau (Sitiveni Mafi 54), 4. Tukulua Lokotui, 3. Halani Aulika (Sila Puafisi 69), 2. Elvis Taione (Paula Ngauamo 49) , 1. Soane Tonga’uiha (Sona Taumalolo 55)