All Blacks crush Tonga 102-0, Ian Foster defends one-sided fixture

Winger Will Jordan scored five tries as the All Blacks opened their 2021 campaign with a record-equalling 102-0 trouncing of an inexperienced Tonga side on Saturday at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium.

Looking to make a statement after managing only a 50 per cent win record last year, New Zealand ran in 16 tries against a team boasting fewer combined test caps than All Blacks skipper Sam Whitelock alone.

Tonga, featuring 13 debutants in their matchday 23 after Covid-19 travel restrictions deprived them of their Europe-based players, were simply outgunned and outsmarted in a mismatch of a contest.

Beauden Barrett, back in the famous black shirt after a sabbatical in Japan, converted the final try after coming on as a replacement to equal the score in the mauling the Tongans suffered at Albany in 2000.

Jordan came up one short of the All Blacks record for most tries in one match, set by Marc Ellis in the 145-17 win over Japan at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

“It was good to get out there,” said Whitelock, who was playing his 123rd test.

“The Tongan team were here to play and it wasn’t easy out there.”

The All Blacks coach Ian Foster bristled at suggestions the one-sided test wasn’t good for either side and should never have been played.

Fans and pundits were largely in agreement the game was a poor look for international rugby, but Foster said he hoped the storyline would not be around how much of a gap there was between the two teams.

He said the Covid pandemic had made things more difficult for Tonga and was asked how the match could have been made a more even contest.

“Take away Covid, take away quarantining and add another month on the calendar for the world rugby thing. There is no solution to that right now,” Foster said.

“I’d be disappointed if that’s what we are dwelling on. We weren’t happy last year when we got no rugby. This year we’ve got some rugby. Clearly the itinerary has put Tonga in a compromised position, but they’ve been keen to play and deserve a lot of credit for that.

“I’d like think we aren’t just going to focus on the scoreline and say this was a game that shouldn’t have happened, because for the Tongan people it was an important game, and it was equally important for us to go out and start what could be a long year.

“In today’s environment you take what you can get.”

Fullback Damian McKenzie crossed for the first try in the second minute and, after Dalton Papalii had touched down and Will Jordan and Brad Weber had grabbed a brace each, the All Blacks were 38-0 up in the 20th minute.

Tonga managed to stem the torrent of tries temporarily by abandoning the tactic of kicking away possession but flanker Papalii grabbed his second try in the 37th minute to give the home side a 43-0 lead at the break.

No.8 Luke Jacobson crossed soon after the restart with winger Jordan and halfback Weber completing their hat-tricks before the 50th minute.

The Tongans, many fresh out of quarantine, started to tire and the All Blacks backs put on an exhibition with Richie Mo’unga crossing, Jordan adding his fourth and fifth tries and centre Rieko Ioane racing away to touch down.

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu burst through the defensive line to take the score into the 90s with three minutes remaining and winger George Bridge crossed on the overlap after the fulltime siren to take them to the century mark.

“We didn’t get the result tonight but I’m very proud of my brothers here,” said emotional Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua.

“This is all we can do, just give it our all.”

– RNZ/Reuters

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