AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — A strong first-half performance set up New Zealand’s 26-6 win over Tonga on Saturday in the home side's first rugby league test in almost three years.
New Zealand led 20-6 at halftime in the match at Auckland’s Mt. Smart Stadium which was turned by Tonga supporters into a sea of red clothing and flags. The Kiwis managed only one try in the second half but still convincingly won the match which serves as part of its long-term preparation for the Rugby League World Cup in Britain later this year.
New Zealand’s last international match was against Britain in November 2019. International rugby league almost has been in abeyance since because of international border closures caused by COVID-19.
New Zealand opened the scoring with a try after only four minutes to Jahrome Hughes. It doubled its score five minutes later when Jordan Rapana finished an outstanding movement featuring Kenny Bronwich and Dylan Brown.
Tonga’s only try came in the 15th minute when Sione Katoa scored wide out after lead-up work by Talatau Amone and Will Penisini.
Rapana extended New Zealand’s lead with a penalty and Ronaldo Mulitalo scored the home team’s third try in the 31st minute.
There was less action in a second half affected by wet conditions which made errors more common. Isaiah Papali’i scored the only try of the half in the 61st minute.
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