All Blacks issue World Cup warning with 92-7 win over Tonga
THE All Blacks did it so easy against Tonga that they deliberately finished the game with 14 men - not replacing centre Ryan Crotty as they cruised to a 92-7 win on Saturday before jetting off to Japan.
Winger George Bridge's four tries for New Zealand would have pleased coach Steve Hansen, who was looking for a defence-busting performance from the reigning Rugby World Cup champions.
Hansen is expecting opponents in Japan to employ rush defence in a bid to smother the All Blacks' attack and derail the New Zealanders' campaign for a third straight World Cup, and fourth overall.
"There's definitely been a swing or bias towards defence... but someone's going to crack that nut because history tells us that will happen," Hansen said before the Test.
"When it does, it will open up the floodgates for the attacking game to come strong again."
The All Blacks scoring 14 tries in the rout of Tonga in Hamilton.
Playing with a freedom against hopelessly outclassed opponents, the world champions flexed their attacking muscles ominously on Saturday, notching their biggest winning margin over any team in more than a decade.
Fullback Ben Smith and inside centre Ryan Crotty crossed twice each in what was effectively a glorified training run.
It was a colourful way for Smith, Crotty and captain Kieran Read - who also scored a try - to end their Test careers on New Zealand soil. The trio will all take up offshore club contracts after the World Cup.
Tongan skipper Siale Piutau crossed three minutes from the end to ensure the All Blacks wouldn't keep their opponents scoreless for a second straight game, after NZ's 36-0 whitewash of the Wallabies 36-0 three weeks ago.
Up 54-0 at half-time, New Zealand appeared on track to raise a century for most of the game but were held scoreless over the final 15 minutes.
They weren't helped by their own decision to play with just 14 men for that period. They didn't replace Crotty when he left the ground after scoring his second try.
Otherwise, the hosts were ruthless, playing with a speed the 15th-ranked Tongans couldn't match.
Steve Hansen's men won't get the same leeway when they face the Springboks in a mouth-watering opening World Cup pool game against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21.
Tonga face England in Sapporo a day later and coach Toutai Kefu, the former Wallabies forward, has a mountainous task to get them up to speed.
Injuries forced Kefu to field Siua Maile as his starting hooker. Maile is a full-time Christchurch roofer who had never previously played higher than club rugby.
Hansen will have breathed a sigh of relief that none of his players seemingly picked up injuries.
He was able to hand a Test debut to Josh Ioane, who replaced Beauden Barrett at half-time.
Ioane's first touch was a kickoff, which was claimed by Bridge, who scored just seven seconds after the restart - most probably a world record.