9th Sep 2011 12:00am | By TNT Today
New Zealand produced a mixed performance as they beat minnows Tonga 41-10 in Auckland on Friday night in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks dominated the opening half at Eden Park to lead 29-3 at the break but, instead of kicking away in the second spell, had to endure some sticky moments.
They scored six tries, with fullback Israel Dagg and winger Richard Kahui each grabbing a brace, while prop Sona Taumalolo's second half touchdown was Tonga's big moment.
After the sides traded pre-match haka, the Tongans made a spirited start. However, it wasn't last long before the All Blacks' greater slickness bore fruit. Dagg opened the try-scoring, courtesy of good work by Kahui, who then got over after an exquisite back flip pass from second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams.
By midway through the opening spell, with the All Blacks dominating, the contest had a one-sided look and the crowd responded with the first Mexican wave of the night.
Winger Isaia Toeava, who was a constant threat with ball, set up Dagg for his second try, before Kahui finished well down the sideline to complete his brace.
Tonga struggled for possession and their only reply came right on halftime, with first-five eighth Kurt Morath landing a penalty. The All Blacks continued to make all the play and Williams and Toeava were both denied by last ditched defence.
They finally pushed further ahead after a Kahui chip-and-regather allowed flanker Jerome Kaino to stroll over.
But Tonga fought back strongly and spent a long passage of the final quarter camped on the opposition line before Taumalolo finally forced his way across.
The All Blacks had the last say when centre Ma'a Nonu crossed.
New Zealand now face Japan in Hamilton next Friday night, while Tonga are back in action two days earlier against Canada in Whangarei.
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