14-try spree as All Blacks blitz Tonga

Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks makes a break during the rugby Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Tonga at FMG Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks makes a break during the rugby Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Tonga at FMG Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The All Blacks wrapped up their World Cup preparations with a runaway 92-7 victory against Tonga as George Bridge scored four times in the 14-try romp in Hamilton on Saturday.

Coach Steve Hansen wanted to fine-tune his expansive game plan before heading to Tokyo on a quest for a third consecutive World crown and his reigning champions did not disappoint.

Against a limited Tongan defence the All Blacks' passing and handling clicked, with tries regularly scored from long-range, although they finished just short of their record 102-0 drubbing of the tiny Pacific island nation in Auckland nine years ago.

They made maximum use of all 15 players to deliver their high-octane performance, with even tight-head prop Nepo Laulala producing one-handed off-loads in a quality impression of Sonny Bill Williams.

Towards the end of the match, when Tonga were down to 14 players with Sam Lousi in the sin-bin, Hansen pulled Ryan Crotty from the field to not only even the numbers but also to practise playing with a man down should the occasion arise in Japan.

In two weeks, the All Blacks will not have the same freedom when they launch their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Yokohama, but they did show they possess immense strike power when they move the ball wide.

Bridge's four tries included one 7.4 seconds into the second half when he plucked the kick-off from the midst of the Tongans and scampered 35 metres to the line.

Sevu Reece on the right wing scored once while Ben Smith, restored to the fullback role, crossed twice as did Crotty.

Beauden Barrett, who converted seven of the eight first-half tries, did not take the field for the second spell, allowing Josh Ioane to make his All Blacks debut.

For the hapless Tongans, who face England first up in the World Cup, they have plenty to work on, especially defensively, over the next two weeks.

They were rewarded with a try, to captain Siale Piutau, but that was just before full-time when they were restored to full strength while the All Blacks continued to deliberately play with a man short.

For the All Blacks, tries were scored by Sevu Reece, Ben Smith (2), Codie Taylor, George Bridge (4), Kieran Read, TJ Perenara, Ryan Crotty (2), Matt Todd, Ardie Savea. Beauden Barrett kicked seven conversions and Josh Ioane four.

Siale Piutau scored Tonga's sole try converted by Tane Tokelau.

- AFP

 

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