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New Zealand run riot in second half to claim top spot in Pool C

The All Blacks struggled early on against Tonga before running in five second-half tries

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

New Zealand 47

Tonga 9

MA’A NONU MARKED his 100th New Zealand cap by scoring a late try as the All Blacks hammered Tonga 47-9 at St James’ Park to secure top spot in Pool C of the Rugby World Cup.

The world champions were already assured a place in the quarter-final after winning their first three games of the tournament and produced an ominous second-half display to maintain their 100 per cent record.

First-half tries from Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock put the World Cup favourites 14-3 up at the break and they turned on the style after the interval to romp to victory.

Nehe Milner-Skudder crossed twice to take his tally for the tournament to four, then Sonny-Bill Williams and Sam Cane went over before Nonu raised the roof by scoring the All Blacks’ seventh try in his landmark appearance, with Dan Carter slotting six out of seven conversions.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool C - New Zealand v Tonga - St James' Park Source: PA Wire/PA Images

New Zealand will now face either France or Ireland in Cardiff next Saturday, while Tonga – who only had three Kurt Morath penalties to show for a brave display – miss out on third spot and automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

Tonga made an encouraging start, but they were behind after 13 minutes when New Zealand put together a slick move which ended with Conrad Smith showing great hands to set up his namesake Ben, who barged through two tackles to score the opening try.

Carter converted, but Tonga were given great backing by a lively crowd and Morath raised the decibels when he slotted over a penalty to get the underdogs on the scoreboard.

Woodcock then powered his way over nine minutes before the break after the All Blacks got quick ball from a scrum and the Pacific Islanders were unable to contain them.

Carter made it two from two with the boot to put the All Blacks 14-3 up, but  they were down to 14 men just before half-time when Kieran Read, captain in the absence of the injured Richie McCaw, was penalised for bringing down a Tonga maul illegally.

Tonga exerted huge pressure on the world champions in the short time that remained before the interval and were somewhat unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty try as they failed to reduce the deficit.

New Zealand remained on the back foot at the start of the second half and another Morath penalty made it 14-6 before Read returned to the fray.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool C - New Zealand v Tonga - St James' Park Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The All Blacks continued to look a threat every time they attacked, though, and Milner-Skudder muscled his way over 12 minutes into the second half.

Milner-Skudder added his second try on the left eight minutes later after Morath had booted his third penalty, and Williams got in on the act soon after coming on - with Carter maintaining his perfect record from the tee.

Tonga’s Paula Ngauamo was then sent to the bin before Cane crossed and centre Nonu raced away down the left to fittingly complete the rout, with Carter this time unable to convert.

New Zealand: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Waisake Naholo; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt) .

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.

Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Telusa Veainu, Siale Piutau, Latiume Fosita, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Soane Tonga’uiha, Elvis Taione, Halani Aulika, Tukulua Lokotui, Joseph Tuineau, Sione Kalamafoni, Nili Latu (capt), Viliami Ma’afu.

Replacements: Paula Ngauamo, Sona Taumalolo, Sila Puafisi, Sitiveni Mafi, Jack Ram, Samisoni Fisilau, Viliami Tahitua, Will Helu.

New Zealand scorers:
Tries: Nehe Milner Skudder (2), Sam Cane, Sonny Bill Williams, Tony Woodcock, Ben Smith, Ma’a Nonu (1 each)
Conversions:  Dan Carter (6)
Tonga scorers:
Penalties: Kurt Morath (3)

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