Kiwis tear Tongans apart
Leuluai and Marshall star as Kiwis run riot in final warm-up fixture
Last Updated: October 18, 2008 8:34am
New Zealand warmed up for the start of the World Cup with a 56-8 hammering of Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Jerome Ropati claimed a hat-trick as the hosts crossed for 10 tries in a one-sided contest ahead of the start of the tournament next weekend.
For the Kiwis the performance was the perfect preparation for their opening fixture against favourites Australia in Sydney.
In contrast the Tongans will have to improve, and quickly, before they face Ireland despite fielding a side that contained 13 players who have featured in the NRL.
Wakefield's Tevita Leo-Latu grabbed a second try for the away side after Cooper Vanu had gone over shortly after half time to break their duck.
However, by the time Tonga got on the board the game was already over as a contest, New Zealand building up a 22-0 lead by the break.
The half-back combination of Thomas Leuluai and Benji Marshall shone throughout, and it was their good work that led to Jason Nightingale opening the scoring after 11 minutes.
The winger grabbed a second in the opening half after forward Setaimata Sa had barged his way over the line.
Centre Ropati opened his account and although Tonga battled on bravely the Kiwis were in no mood to take their foot off the gas, the influential Marshall scoring their fifth of the night.
The Wests Tigers star then set up the second of Ropati's treble before going on to grab the final try himself to complete a fine all-round performance.
Leuluai also got a try his display deserved, finishing off a fine break by forward Greg Eastwood, who impressed off the bench.
The only worry for coach Stephen Kearney ahead of the clash with the Kangaroos was the absence of prop Nathan Cayless, full-back Lance Hohaia and winger Manu Vatuvei through injury.