New Zealand 47-9 Tonga: Nonu bags try in 100th test
Tries from Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock before a second-half double from Nehe Milner-Skudder handed the All Blacks their third successive bonus point in Newcastle.
Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Cane also crossed over before Nonu’s special moment three minutes from time as the World Cup favourites eventually won by a convincing 47-9 margin.
Tonga could only register three Kurt Morath penalties, leaving the New Zealanders to top Pool C with 19 points.
Steve Hansen’s team had already booked a place in the quarter-finals – where they are set to face Ireland or France –after wins over Argentina, Namibia and Georgia but their displays had been far from slick.
And for spells they were just as disjointed against Tonga, but once they did get motoring they simply blew them away.
The world champions ran out without inspirational captain Richie McCaw, who was wrapped in cotton wool – and left to carry the water bottles – after a slight hip strain.
But it was still largely a first-choice XV, with Nonu joining an elite band of just six men who have reached a century of appearances for the All Blacks.
Tonga knew only an unlikely victory would salvage their chances of claiming third place in the group and automatic qualification to the 2019 World Cup in Japan. However, despite battling with determination and ferocity, they could not upset the odds.
A Tongan mistake allowed the All Blacks to go in front after 14 minutes. Hooker Elvis Taione overcooked a line-out and a swift counter attack saw New Zealand romp up-field before Ben Smith ran in for the opener, converted by Dan Carter.
Morath put the Tongans on the scoresheet with a penalty but New Zealand scored again when they moved the ball with pace off the back of a scrum, allowing prop Woodcock ample time to bundle over after 31 minutes. Again Carter put over the extras.
Whatever Hansen said at half-time, it worked as his team returned with a more focused eye. Carter spread the ball wide for wing Milner-Skudder to dive over for another converted touchdown.
Morath’s third penalty was reward for his side’s tenacity but their losses continued as Milner-Skudder raced on to Ben Smith’s grubber.
Substitute Williams was allowed to drive through the heart of the Tongan defence to add another score.
Things went from bad to worse for Mana Otai’s team when prop Paula Ngauamo was handed a yellow card for another dangerous drop tackle on Carter. With their defensive shape undone, Cane cantered in for his 10th international score while Carter was again flawless with the conversion.
But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Nonu as he raced down the left wing to put a gloss on his milestone occasion with the seventh try.
NEW ZEALAND: B Smith, Milner-Skudder, C Smith, Nonu, Naholo, Carter, A Smith, Woodcock, Coles, O. Franks, Romano, Whitelock, Kaino, Cane, Read. Subs: 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).
TONGA: Lilo, Veainu, Piutau, Fosita, Vainikolo, Morath, Takulua, Tonga’uiha, Taione, Aulika, Lokotui, Tu’ineau, Kalamafoni, Latu, Ma’afu. Subs: Helu for Veainu (70), Tahitu’a for Morath (63), Fisilau for Takulua (70), Taumalolo for Tonga’uiha (56), Ngauamo for Taione (50), Puafisi for Aulika (70), Mafi for Tu’ineau (55), Ram for Ma’afu (69).