All Blacks 47
Better from the All Blacks. Much better. If they needed a challenge to get going in this World Cup they got it in the first half of this big victory over Tonga when skipper Kieran Read was sinbinned.
The response was impressive after Read departed two minutes from halftime with his team holding a 14-3 advantage. The All Blacks had to withstand enormous pressure from the Tongan scrum.
But, on their final warning from referee John Lacey after two collapses, the black pack held their own and the threat was effectively over. It was a significant moment, the All Blacks holding together better than the pitch.
They had looked good in parts up till then, with Ben Smith going over for a neat blindside try and Tony Woodcock also diving over. But, again, there was some loose stuff and a try from Tonga before the break would have made it interesting.
As it was, the All Blacks returned from the break refreshed - Tonga, who played just five days ago, looked tired. In the end, the defending champions worked the rust from their system, but lost Woodcock to what looked like a hamstring injury which might put him in doubt for next weekend's quarter-final.
There were no other obvious injuries - a big positive, as was the form of Nehe Milner-Skudder, first on the right wing, and then on the left after Waisake Naholo was replaced.
The little Hurricanes player scored two tries and looks an obvious starter on the right for the All Blacks' sudden death match against France or Ireland in Cardiff.
Naholo gradually got involved in the first half but badly bombed a try when dropping a Dan Carter pass with a two-man overlap. It was a rare miss from the All Blacks, who looked far more impressive than they did against Georgia or Namibia.
"We've had to work hard through the pool stage and that hasn't been a bad thing for us," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "We had a plan and we stuck to that plan. Now we have to wait to see if it works."
The All Blacks will play either France or Ireland in the quarter-finals. Hansen said he didn't care who they play.
"How you are playing at the moment means nothing," Hansen said. "What's happening now isn't relevant. What happens next week, will be."
Like in their first match against Argentina, the All Blacks' bench made a huge difference. Beauden Barrett made a try for Milner-Skudder with a kick through the defence and Sonny Bill Williams was a massive presence in the midfield when replacing Conrad Smith.
Fittingly, Ma'a Nonu scored in the final minutes, a popular try on the occasion of his 100th test. The crowd of 50,985 at this magnificent stadium in England's north east left happy, as did the All Blacks.
A seven-try to nil victory - Carter missed only one conversion - has them looking in good shape for the business end of the tournament. Challenge accepted - game lifted.
All Blacks 47 (Ben Smith, Tony Woodcock, Nehe Milner-Skudder 2, Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Cane, Ma'a Nonu tries; Dan Carter 6 cons)
Tonga 9 (Kurt Morath 3 pens)
- Patrick McKendry at St James' Park