The winners and losers from All Blacks' win over Tonga

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio Interviews,
Publish Date
Monday, 9 September 2019, 11:24AM
Ben Smith and Ardie Savea during the All Blacks match. (Photo / Photosport)

The highlights and star contributors from the All Blacks' 92-7 victory over Tonga.

Forward of the week: Ardie Savea

Powerful, creative, quick; the All Blacks flanker has an incredible ability to surprise every week and is on target to shock the world in Japan over the next couple of months.

He played a part in the first three tries against Tonga and was constantly popping up to make life difficult for the opposition – either near the ruck or in open space. Savea is a precious jewel for the All Blacks.

Back of the week: George Bridge

Bridge's greatest strengths are his pace allied with his ability to make the right decisions at the right times. Both will be crucial in the big matches in Japan and he must be considered the All Blacks' top left wing at the moment. His ability under the high ball – not as necessary at Waikato Stadium because Tonga's kicking game was poor – can't be forgotten either.

World Cup watch: Ben Smith

Told to back himself and trust his instincts by coach Steve Hansen, Smith did that from fullback against Tonga, with two long-range tries and a sharp all-round game. Could this be the turning point in his struggle to regain the form of old? It just might be. His experience will be crucial at the World Cup and he's still firmly in the frame for a starting position in the big matches – perhaps on the right wing.

Ups

The score

For a moment in the final quarter it really looked like the All Blacks were to crack the hundred mark for just the sixth time in history, and first under Steve Hansen. After scoring their second-most points in the first half, behind the 84-3 scoreline against Japan in 1995, the All Blacks kicked on from 54-0 before easing with 14 men in the last 10 minutes.

No injuries

The one thing the All Blacks were keen to avoid in the final test before the World Cup was any injuries. Sure they could suffer a major one, or three, once the tournament begins but with the exception of Damian McKenzie they will head to Japan today with their strongest possible squad.

Josh Ioane

One player not going to Japan is the Highlanders number 10 who did an exceptional job when replacing Beauden Barrett at the start of the second half. He got a decent 40-minute run in his debut which will be a big confidence booster for both him and the selectors if he's needed for a call-up in the coming month or so.

Downs

Tongan tackle bags

It's hard to pick a down from an All Blacks' perspective following a 92-7 thrashing so let's flip it on Tonga and list tackling as a major work-on ahead of their opening World Cup game against England on September 22. They finished with 37 missed tackles on Saturday with centres Mali Hingano and Siale Piutau missing 11 between them. Manu Tuilagi could have a field day.