Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks complete rampant dress rehearsal against Tonga

Four tries for wing George Bridge have highlighted the All Blacks' 92-7 romp over Tonga in their final hit-out before leaving to defend the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Leading 54-0 at half-time, New Zealand rattled on 14 tries, playing an expansive style that would have given some fringe players confidence before the world tournament.

Midfielder Ryan Crotty, who has spent most of the international campaign under an injury cloud, notched up a try-scoring double, along with veteran fullback Ben Smith, who has also struggled for self-belief this year.

The All Blacks showed their intent early, bring both Bridge and Sevu Reece off their wings and into backline moves.

That paid dividends in the ninth minute, when Bridge was dragged down just a couple of metres short on the left, then the ball went right, where Reece beat his man for the opening try.

Their second came from a turnover deep inside their own half, with Ardie Savea stealing possession from a ruck and Smith sprinting 60 metres untouched.

Bridge made a long run down the left, brushing off tackles and ignoring Beauden Barrett's support on his shoulder. When the move threatened to break down, the ball moved right, where Codie Taylor crossed for the try.

The All Blacks forwards dominated their opponents in the set piece, but Barrett squandered an opportunity from a scrum turnover.

Moments later, off a dominant lineout win, they mauled 10-15 metres, before releasing the ball to the backs, who gave Bridge another look at the corner flag - and he capitalised.

From a quick tap penalty, the forwards showed their skill, with lock Patrick Tuipulotu offloading in a tackle and Savea putting skipper Kieran Read away for the try.

Almost immediately, Reece wove and dodged between defenders, before off-loading - slightly forward - to TJ Perenara to score.

Smith got a second just before half-time, when he got quick ball from the breakdown and simply had too much speed for the Tongans.

From the kick-off, Savea made the break, giving space to Reece down the right, before the wing found Ryan Crotty in support for a try that brought up the half-ton as half-time arrived.

Coach Steve Hansen injected debutant first-five Josh Ioane into the game, kicking off for the second half and then lining up a sideline conversion, after Bridge won the kick and galloped to the corner.  

Five minutes later, the forwards won an attacking lineout and mauled Matt Todd over the line for the 10th try.

After setting up four first-half tries, Savea finally got one of his own, after Ioane chipped to Reece's wing, with the flanker looming inside for a run to the line. 

A series of substitutions failed to slow the All Blacks' scoring rate, with Bridge bringing up his hat-trick.

Lock Scott Barrett returned from a three-game suspension, while loose forward Luke Jacobson was given a chance to add to his international credentials. New Zealand's challenge became maintaining continuity.

Ioane's boot was again instrumental in Bridge's fourth try, after he kicked ahead and the wing gathered, with the open line in sight.   

Tonga had their best chance to score, when Atieli Pakalani set his sights on the corner, but was bundled across the touch-line by Jordie Barrett's desperate tackle.

Their cause wasn't helped, when lock Sam Lousi was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle on Ioane. Their resolve was also tested by a series of injuries that saw them bringing substituted players back for a second stint on-field.

When Crotty crossed for his second try, taking the score to 92-0, he was subbed off without replacement, leaving his side playing the last 15 minutes a man short.

The All Blacks almost went another man down, after Jordie Barrett tripped and unintentionally took out a Tonga player leaping for a high kick. Luckily, referee Angus Gardner spotted the Barrett's collision with Reece and allowed him to see out the closing minutes. 

Tonga finally cracked the NZ defence with four minutes remaining, when their forwards laid siege to the try-line and captain Siale Piutau eventually crossed beside the posts.

"I was really thrilled," said Read afterwards. "It was one of those games where we could have rolled in with an eye on the next couple of weeks coming up, but we stuck at it.

"We couldn't get loose across the game, we wanted to keep in control.

'You've got to earn the right to score tries and if your wings are scoring tries on the outside, it usually means the forwards are doing pretty well inside."

Perhaps most importantly, the All Blacks seemed to emerge from the encounter with no significant injuries.

New Zealand 92 (George Bridge 4, Ryan Crotty 2, Ben Smith 2, Sevu Reece, Codie Taylor, Kieran Read, TJ Perenara, Matt Todd & Ardie Savea tries; Beauden Barrett seven conversions, Josh Ioane four conversions) Tonga 7 (Siale Piutau try; Kurt Morath conversion)


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