A dazzling hat-trick from Shaun Johnson has catapulted the New Zealand Kiwis to a comfortable win over Tonga in the Oceania Cup.
Equally impressive in the Kiwis 34-14 win was Brandon Smith, who made the most of his time on the field with a quality display.
Smith would open the scoring with an impressive 35-metre dash, the start of an impressive performance.
Forward-turned-halfback John Asiata and Daniel Tupou then combined, for a try to Solomone Kata.
Asiata’s pinpoint cross-field kick was batted back by the hulking Roosters winger, with Kata there to catch and score.
As the first half neared the 30-minute mark, the game would turn into the Shaun Johnson show.
His first two tries were basically carbon copies of each other.
A darting run, a goose step, evading defenders and slicing through some poor Tongan defence.
The start of the second half was much of the same, with Smith and Johnson again heavily involved.
A strong carry through the middle from Smith and his perfectly timed grubber saw Johnson pounce to beat everyone to the ball.
Despite Tonga’s best efforts to wrestle back some momentum, their lack of a genuine play-maker ended up costing them.
Joseph Manu and then Jahrome Hughes scored tries of their own, with Hughes burrowing his way over.
That put the game to bed, although Tonga did score two late tries.
Jason Taumalolo laid on an assist for Sio Siua Taukeiaho, before a lovely team effort capped off a late Tongan blitz.
Post-game, Taumalolo admits that the Kiwis took the fight to them in the middle and came out on top.
“They really took it to us in the middle there and moved us around,” the Tongan forward said.
“Obviously, when you have guys like Benji and Shaun Johnson leading the team around, you can’t give them too much time, which we did.”
In what could be his last game in a Kiwi jersey, Benji Marshall spoke of the rollercoaster of emotions this past week.
“To be honest, I’m just very humbled to be back in this arena,” said the veteran Kiwi half.
“Being out for seven years, to get this opportunity was a dream come true for me.”