Kiwis crush Tonga 56-8 in final World Cup warm-up game

AFP , AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - Page 18

New Zealand ran in 10 tries as they cruised to a comfortable 56-8 win over Tonga in their final rugby league World Cup warm-up match at Mount Smart Stadium yesterday.

With halves James Leuluai and Benji Marshall calling the shots, New Zealand dominated for most of the match, creating plenty of indecision in the Tongan defense.

Jerome Ropati dotted down three times for the Kiwis, while Jason Nightingale and Marshall both scored twice.

Tonga had the potential to offer more with a starting 13 who had all played in the National Rugby League and contained four former New Zealand or Australian internationals. But they seldom threatened the New Zealand line.

The Kiwis had their first points on the board in the 11th minute when a Marshall cutout pass sent Nightingale over in the corner. Play had barely restarted when Marshall, who was instrumental in most of New Zealand’s scoring moves, created a hole for second rower Setaimata Sa to run through and score.

Nightingale scored for a second time when the Kiwis ran the ball wide, a Leuluai cross-kick to Marshall then paved the way for Ropati’s first try and the Kiwis were up 22-0 at halftime.

The Tongans came out fired up in the second half and were eventually rewarded when center Cooper Vuna forced his way over the line.

Marshall regained the initiative for New Zealand, scoring one try himself and then slipping an inside pass which led to Ropati’s second try.

Leuluai, Ropati for a third time, and Simon Mannering then crossed in quick succession to bring up the half-century, before Tevita Leo-Latu replied for Tonga. Marshall fittingly had the last word, finishing off a break by interchange forward Sika Manu.