New Zealand 92-7 Tonga: All Blacks fall short of century in pre-World Cup annihilation

By Sports Desk September 06, 2019

New Zealand's final Rugby World Cup dress rehearsal was more like a training session as the defending champions demolished Tonga 92-7 in an ominous warning before the showpiece tournament.

The All Blacks fell just short of 100 points in a merciless display against Tonga in Hamilton, where New Zealand scored 14 tries to one on Saturday.

Tonga managed to get on the board late in the one-sided game, but it was all about New Zealand, who were led by winger George Bridge's four tries at Waikato Stadium.

Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Sevu Reece also had two tries apiece, while Beauden Barrett had seven conversions.

Steve Hansen's All Blacks will now jet off for Japan before they open their World Cup defence against South Africa on September 21.

Playing their first day-time Test in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup, the All Blacks were a class above from the outset following Reece's opening try in the eighth minute.

Reece danced his way through Tonga's defence, but no one would have imagined the rout to come as the All Blacks ran in eight tries for a demoralising 54-0 half-time lead.

New Zealand – who beat Tonga 47-9 in their last encounter at the 2015 World Cup – did not take their foot off the pedal in the second half, with records in sight.

Bridge came within touching distance of Marc Ellis' record of six in a match, which he set at the 1995 World Cup against Japan, as he became the 13th All Black to score four tries in a Test.

The second half started with Bridge catching the ball from the restart and crossing after just nine seconds in a forgettable moment for Tonga.

New Zealand added another 38 points in the second 40 minutes and while Siale Piutau recorded a five-pointer for the visitors, Tonga were condemned to their second heaviest loss to the All Blacks following the 102-0 humiliation in 2000.

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    Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

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    "Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

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    Full-back Yamanaka switched with William Tupou throughout the pool stage, with the latter starting against Scotland as the hosts secured their place in a World Cup knockout stage for the first time.

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    Amanaki Lelei Mafi had not featured since going off against Ireland, but Joseph is able to welcome the number eight back into the squad.

    Wimpie van der Walt and Lomano Lemeki have been recalled to the bench, with Uwe Helu and Hendrik Tui missing out.

    Jiwon Koo had been a doubt after sustaining a rib injury against Scotland but has been passed fit to start.

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    Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Jiwon Koo, Luke Thompson, James Moore, Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno.

    Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Wimpie van der Walt, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Lomano Lava Lemeki.

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    Hooker Guirado did not play in France's final two pool-stage games amid reports he had fallen out with Brunel, who it was claimed wanted to remove the captain from his position.

    However, with Les Bleus players believed to have given their backing to Guirado, the skipper has been named in the line-up ahead of Camille Chat, who is back on the bench after starting against the United States and Tonga.

    Brunel has also been boosted by scrum-half Antoine Dupont and wing Damian Penaud being declared fit.

    Dupont had not started since France's opening World Cup match against Argentina due to a back problem, but will feature alongside Toulouse team-mate Romain Ntamack in the half-back pairing.

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    France team: Maxime Medard, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Bernard Le Roux, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Wenceslas Lauret, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

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