JWC - New Zealand defeat Tonga
New Zealand lived up to their billing as the pre-tournament favourites at the IRB Junior World Championship 2008 as they got off to a flying start to the competition with a comfortable victory over Tonga at the Cardiff Arms Park.
The sides though had been separated only by a single point – 10-9 – at half time, but New Zealand’s final surge gave them a convincing win over a steely Tongan outfit in the opening Pool A encounter.
Tonga did get off to a good start to the game with a first minute penalty from their full back Sione Toke giving them an early lead, but New Zealand looked the most dangerous in attack in the opening exchanges.
New Zealand saw their fine attacking play rewarded after 15 minutes when they touched down their first try in the corner through Joe Hill, but the tough-tackling Tongans then took a 9-7 lead with two further penalties from Toke.
However New Zealand, featuring several players from last season’s IRB Under 19 World Championship-winning team, crept ahead again just before the break with a penalty of their own from fly half Daniel Kirkpatrick.
The young New Zealand stars began the second half strongly with wing Hill scoring his second try early on after some impressive build up involving powerhouse number 8 Matt Luamanu, who along with man of the match Peter Saili had a significant influence on the game’s outcome.
Two further tries in quick succession minutes later through Saili and centre Jackson Willison put New Zealand in the driving seat as they began dominate completely.
Tonga had chances in attack but errors at crucial times, coupled with a sturdy New Zealand rearguard, meant they could find no way through as their opponents opened the floodgates with full back Zac Guildford, prop Paea Fa’anunu and wing Andre Taylor crossing for tries before the final whistle.
New Zealand captain Chris Smith: "It’s always nice to get a good win. Tonga provided a really good opposition for us in that first half, but it showed us that we’ve got a lot of things to work on and by no means are we the completed product.
"Tonga played really well in that first half but to our credit we wore them down and played some good rugby in the second half so we are happy but there are things we need to work on."
Man of the match, New Zealand second row Peter Saili: "We made too many mistakes and we brought it on ourselves. We had a lot of space and a lot of ball but we didn’t really use it well. Tonga were a real tough team but our performance was not up to scratch from a New Zealand perspective but there is a lot more to come from us."
Tonga coach Fe'ao Vakata: "We had a good first half but in the second half we lost our concentration and we made mistakes especially in defence and in the lineout. New Zealand were brilliant in the lineout and something that we will be looking is our forwards’ work rates. We also made mistakes in defence out wide which we will be working on."