All Blacks win World Cup opener

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New Zealand launched their bid for a first World Cup title since 1987 with a comfortable 41-10 victory over Tonga in the opening match of the 2011 tournament.

The hosts led 29-3 at the break in Auckland as Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui completed first-half braces.
Kurt Morath landed a penalty for Tonga on the stroke of half-time.

Jerome Kaino scored the hosts’ fifth try before Alisona Taumalolo scored a well deserved try for Tonga, and Ma’a Nonu added a sixth for the All Blacks.

With four tries on the board before half-time it looked being the perfect start to the tournament for the All Blacks, who once again go into the event as the number one-ranked team in the world, as they look to lay the ghost that has haunted them through the previous five World Cups.

Perennial favourites going into the tournament, they have failed to become world champions since the inaugural tournament, also on home soil, back in 1987.

Despite never having lost a pool game in the history of the World Cup a series of defeats in the knock-out stages has led to them being labelled chokers by some critics.

Any early nerves among the players — and a nation of four million desperate for their heroes to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup for a second time — will have been eased by an excellent first-half performance at the refurbished 60 000 capacity Eden Park.

But their disjointed second-half display will surely mean more than a few sleepless nights in the land of the long white cloud.

In fly-half Carter they have the all-time leading points scorer in Test history, ahead of England’s Jonny Wilkinson, and he slotted an early penalty to register the first points of the tournament.

With the scoreboard ticking over the All Blacks relaxed and the tries soon began to flow.

Dagg scored the first, stepping inside the last defender after Richard Kahui had made the first incision off Carter’s inside ball.

The fly-half failed to land the conversion from out wide but the second try soon followed as Kahui finished off another sparkling move, with the key moment being Sonny Bill Williams’ blind reverse flick to Isaia Toeava as the wing came back in the angle to open up the defence.

Inside-centre Williams was denied a try of his own after obstruction by Richie McCaw but the former rugby league star then sent Dagg over for his second, before a fine one-handed pass from the full-back gave Kahui the chance to complete his double.

Carter converted all three scores to give New Zealand a 29-0 lead, with an outclassed Tonga side finally getting on the board on the stroke of half-time through a penalty from Kurt Morath, one of seven members of the Tonga squad born in New Zealand.

The All Blacks were slightly off their game in the opening stages of the second half and it took 19 minutes for the fifth try to arrive, although Toeva had been denied for a foot in touch before Kaino powered over after a fine chip and gather from Kahui.

As the game wore on Tonga finally began to secure a decent amount of possession and they were rewarded when Taumalolo burrowed over from short range for a well-deserved try, which was converted by Morath.

If Tonga had won the second half it would have been a big set-back for the All Blacks after their impressive early display, but they had the final word as replacement Colin Slade sent outside centre Nonu powering over, with the substitute fly-half converting to give the scoreline a more positive sheen. — BBC Sport