Junior All Blacks sweep Pacific Nations Cup

NZPA     04 Jul 2009    

Down 12-20 at halftime, a much-improved New Zealand team coasted home with five converted tries after the break to quell their committed opponents.

The Junior All Blacks had already sewn up the championship with a game to spare and were expected to comfortably account for the winless Tongans.

However, some poor handling and swag of turnovers in the face of some typical Tongan aggression forced them onto the back foot through much of the first half.

They were still only one point clear with 12 minutes remaining before halfback Alby Mathewson, reserve back Robert Fruean and winger Hosea Gear crossed late in the seven-try showing.

Victory continues a perfect record for New Zealand teams in the four-year history of the Pacific Nations Cup.

The Junior All Blacks were unbeaten in 2006 and 2007 while New Zealand Maori achieved the same outcome last year.

Tonga spoiled their promising start with some dreadful discipline, conceding 20 penalties and being reduced to 14 men in the latter stages for constant infringing.

They began falling of the sort of tackles they had been making with gusto earlier in the game as weight of territory began to count in New Zealand's favour.

Down 10-0, the Junior All Blacks hit the front through Gear and second five-eighth Ryan Crotty but they trailed at the break courtesy of Tongan tries to flanker Teu'imuli Kaufusi and centre Alipate Fatafehi, the latter among the best players on the field.

Second five-eighth Pierre Hola kicked 10 points for Tonga to keep them in front before tries early in the second spell to winger Rene Ranger and No 8 Sione Lauaki eventually put the champions in front for good.

Gear's double gave him eight tries for the tournament, showing the sort of form that could lead to an All Blacks recall for the Tri-Nations.

The Junior All Blacks opened their campaign with a tight 17-16 defeat of Samoa in Apia, before two comfortable wins in Lautoka, downing Fiji 45-17 and Japan 52-21.

The tournament concludes when Fiji play Japan in Suva tomorrow.