NEW ZEALAND ‘BLACKS’ SMACK TONGA IN CUP OPENER

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NEW ZEALAND ‘BLACKS’ SMACK TONGA IN CUP OPENER Top-rated World Cup team sends message with 41-10 win

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Sept. 9, 2011) – New Zealand's backs, working off the magic passing of Sonny Bill Williams in the first half, ignited the Rugby World Cup as they set up a 41-10 victory over Tonga in the opening match on Friday.

On a calm night in a packed Eden Park stadium of 60,000, the All Blacks scored six tries to one with a Williams figuring in three of them.

But it was not the complete package the tournament top seeds were after to send an emphatic message to the rest of the field and it was their worst performance in four outings against the Pacific islanders.

After a commanding first half when they turned 29-3 ahead their momentum evaporated in a disjointed second half where they allowed Tonga to take control towards the end.

In a game they were never going to lose, the All Blacks were anxious to remedy the flaws of recent defeats to Australia and South Africa and show they are capable of erasing 24 years of World Cup heartache.

They were on track in the first half but their cohesion deserted them after the break when Tonga brought on four fresh forwards and put noticeable steel into its backline defence.

There was a period of humiliation for the All Blacks when they were forced to concede a series of defensive penalties and the Tongans showed their disdain for the power of the All Blacks pack by opting for scrums.

Their patience was rewarded when replacement prop Alisona Taumalolo barged over late in the game.

Following a grand opening extravaganza which featured All Blacks icon Jonah Lomu who is of Tongan descent, the tournament favourites soaked up the best Tonga had to offer for the first 12 minutes before unleashing their fire power.

The four first-half tries, two each to Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui, were all long-range affairs as the All Blacks carved up the loose Tongan defence.

The islanders' much vaunted forward power was then not enough to hold off the black attack with Richie McCaw, at his third Cup, controlling the breakdown and Williams' passing setting up the All Blacks flyers.

Dagg had the honour of scoring the first try of the World Cup, the result of deft work by Kahui who opened the Tongan defence to send Sonny Bill Williams inside the Tongan 22.

When Williams was tackled Kahui popped up to keep the momentum going and Dagg was up from full-back to receive the final pass.

Kahui benefited from a Williams' magic pass to score next when the inside centre produced a deft unload to Toeava cutting infield and Kahui raced across from the opposite wing to finish the move.

A Williams pass in the tackle to Toava produced Dagg's second try before the full-back fed Kahui for try number four and the All Blacks had 29 points before a Kurt Morath penalty put Tonga on the board.

But it was a different Tonga after the break and in the first 15 minutes after the resumption Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Toeava (twice) and Brad Thorn were all dropped in crunching tackles in reach of the try line.

Kahui snapped the spell, regathering his own chip kick and passed to the ever-present Dagg for his third try.

Taumalolo scored Tonga's try in the 73rd minute before the All Blacks closed out the game with Ma'a Nonu scoring in the dying stages.

New Zealand: 41 (I Dagg 2, R Kahui 2, J Kaino, M Nonu tries; D Carter 3, C Slade cons; Carter pen)

Tonga: 10 (A Taumalolo try; K Morath con, pen)

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