The Kiwi’s eventually pulled it all together to thrash the out of sorts Papua New Guinea side – the New Zealanders working well off Benji Marshall initially to lay the foundation and then ramming home the advantage through a dynamic Issac Luke – winning 48 to 6.
Luke in such devastating form with or without the ball, surely he must be chosen as the starting hooker to give NZ any hope of an upset tournament win.
The Souths hooker was brutal in defence and drove the Kumuls back with heavy hits several times, when he ran from dummy half it was like he had spiders on him – with no PNG player laying a hand on him most times.
Heading into the contest, Papua New Guinea found themselves riding a small wave of hype after their impressive showing against England.
Last Saturday, and completely against the form guide, the Kumuls surprised even themselves by running the Poms close before eventually succumbing 32-22.
Given the Kiwis’ limp first-up showing against Australia, an upset was murmured.
And it took less than 30 seconds for the first drama of the night, Kiwis winger Sam Perrett the victim of a suspicious grapple-like tackle.
Clearly disappointed with their efforts against Australia, the Kiwis had vowed to rectify their tendency to start slowly and nine minutes in they broke the deadlock through a Jerome Ropati four-pointer. Second-rower Simon Mannering – more notable for his defensive prowess – also scored two first-half tries.
Perrett’s try – the first of two – then rounded out a solid half for the Kiwis, who went to the sheds with a comfortable 22-0 lead.
With Marshall off the paddock, the men in black needed someone else to start directing them but much-maligned halfback Thomas Leuluai did little to promote his case for the No.7 jersey.
Instead, and after a surprising try to Papua New Guinea’s David Moore, their inspiration came in the form of diminutive hooker Issac Luke, who, after making two brutal tackles, found himself in space in the ensuing set and scoring.
Luke’s try reignited the Kiwis, with David Fa’alogo crossing shortly after before Adam Blair, Perrett and Greg Eastwood tries buried any hope the Kumuls held of a revival.