All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has paid tribute to centurion Ma’a Nonu after the centre marked his 100th New Zealand cap with a try.
The All Blacks were tested by Tonga in the opening half of the Pool C fixture, having led 14-3 at the break, before shifting gears in the second term to secure a bonus-point victory via the seven-try performance.
It was the All Blacks who opened the scoring, after a few exquisite hands down the right-wing from number of players including Conrad and Aaron Smith, which finally saw Ben Smith go over for a try.
New Zealand now play the loser of Sunday’s match between Ireland and France in their quarter-final at Millennium Stadium next weekend.
Tonga’s last World Cup hope, a third-place pool finish to automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup, realistically disappeared Wednesday when Georgia beat Namibia 17-16.
“Woody just got better and better and he’s been a great player”.
Although Morath trimmed the deficit slightly with another penalty, New Zealand quickly added to their tally as they forced the Tongans back, patiently working through the phases before Carter spread the ball wide for wing Milner-Skudder to dive over for another converted touchdown.
Asked if he expected Woodcock to play, Hansen said it was unlikely.
Woodcock limped from the field with a serious hamstring injury in the 47-9 win over Tonga at Newcastle on Friday. “The staff over at Rockliffe where we’ve been staying, they’re incredible”, he said.
The first half saw the All Blacks trying to create out wider earlier in the sequences of play, but they could not find the holes.
Tonga’s World Cup dream is not yet over and the Pacific Islanders will be looking to reprise the giantkilling exploits of four years ago, when they stunned France in their final pool match.
“I just feel really honoured and privileged that I’ve made it this far and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family and the All Blacks”.
Hansen will rest McCaw for their final RWC Pool C fixture as a precaution, with Sam Cane replacing his post at openside flanker and No. 8 Kieran Read captaining the side. Replacements: Barrett for Naholo (68), Kerr-Barlow for A. Smith (76), Crockett for Woodcock (43), Mealamu for Coles (67), B. Franks for O. Franks (62), Retallick for Romano (50), Messam for Whitelock (68).
There were plenty of nervous faces among All Blacks fans.
“We are excited about that and very happy with our second half against Tonga”.
Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Telusa Veainu, Siale Piutau, Latiume Fosita, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Soane Tonga’uiha, Elvis Taione, Halani Aulika, Tukulua Lokotui, Joseph Tuineau, Sione Kalamafoni, Nili Latu (capt), Viliami Ma’afu.