New Zealand beat Tonga 56-8 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

New Zealand beat Tonga 56-8

18/10/2008 06:06:10 PM Comments (0)

Coach Stephen Kearney pronounced himself satisfied after the Kiwis eased past Tonga 56-8 in their final hitout before the rugby league World Cup.

With their halves combination of Thomas Leuluai and Benji Marshall calling the shots, New Zealand dominated the match although they had to respond to a brief period of Tongan pressure early in the second spell.

The Kiwis scored 10 tries to two, centre Jerome Ropati grabbing a hat-trick and winger Jason Nightingale and Marshall each getting a brace.

Both Leuluai and Marshall kicked well, while Marshall's impromptu moves with ball in hand created plenty of indecision in the Tongan defence.

Up front, there was some strong running from stand-in skipper Jeremy Smith, prop Adam Blair and interchange forward Greg Eastwood, while centre Steve Matai showed he wasn't going to hold back despite carrying a shoulder injury.

Matai produced a huge hit on winger Esi Tonga in the first tackle New Zealand had to make.

Kearney described what his players produced as "fair performance".

"We understand now that we head into the tournament that we will be under a lot more pressure," he said.

"It's important we set ourselves some standards and I thought we did that okay."

The Kiwis open their campaign against world champions Australia in Sydney tomorrow week and Kearney said he had a firm idea of his 17 for that match.

Prop Nathan Cayless (knee), fullback Lance Hohaia and winger Manu Vatuvei (both hamstring) were all late scratchings against Tonga, with Cayless' absence meaning Smith was given the captaincy.

All three were withdrawn merely as a precaution, and Kearney also said those in action on Saturday had all come through without injury.

Tonga had promised plenty with a starting 13 who had all played in the National Rugby League and contained four former New Zealand or Australian internationals.

They also had loud support at Mt Smart Stadium, but they found themselves largely outgunned on the pitch.

Coach Jim Dymock said it was a case of his players not being able to get enough ball against what he described as quality opposition.

He said the result would act as a good reality check, after Tonga had been built up as one of the teams to watch at the World Cup.

"I don't have to keep yelling at them at training," he said.

"I just have to say, `look at the scoreboard'."

Tonga's opening cup match is on October 27 against Ireland in Sydney.

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