Sonny Bill Williams barely broke a sweat in recording a first half hat-trick, as the Kiwis ran in seven tries to go in 40-0 at the break.
They found the going tougher in the second half, as the Kumuls bravely battled on, scoring arguably the try of the game late on, to the delight of a boisterous Leeds crowd.
But the game was long since in the bag for Stephen Kearney’s men, who have now racked up 146 points in their three World Cup group games.
After making such a poor start against Samoa on Monday, the last thing Papua New Guinea wanted was to concede a penalty in the very first set of the game. But they did, and they were punished, as the excellent Kieran Foran stabbed through a low kick for Bryson Goodwin to ground for the game’s first try.
Foran had a hand in virtually all of New Zealand‘s scores, and it was his high kick to the right corner that prompted the second try. Sydney Roosters winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, keeping Jason Nightingale out of the team, climbed to take the kick on the touchline, juggled it a bit, managed to spin around and still get it over the whitewash, despite the attention of a couple of defenders.
He had his second try on 11 minutes, jinking his way over the line after centre Dean Whare had scooped a loose ball between his legs to find his wingman.
And then Sonny Bill took over. Fresh from his rest against France, and of course that incident at Warrington, he powered over for three tries before the break.
The first almost had shades of that botched attempt against Samoa, as he grounded the ball in a desperate fashion just short of the dead ball, in an apparent mocking of his own misfortune, grinning to the crowd and cameramen around him.
That was 24-0 inside just 15 minutes, and it was 30 before the half-hour, as Williams proved far too strong for two Papua New Guinea defenders.
He then turned provider, breaking through following some probing by livewire hooker Isaac Luke, and firing out a trademark offload for Frank-Paul Nu’uausala to crash over.
That triggered goalkicker Shaun Johnson to blotch his copybook, hitting the subsequent conversion against the post, his only miss of the first half, but he put that behind him to set up Williams’ hat-trick try with a sharp pass.
It meant the Kiwis had recorded a point a minute in that first half, but credit to Adrian Lam’s side, they came out fired up after the interval.
Whitehaven back-rower Jessie Joe Nandye broke down the left, and his ball inside was knocked back by David Mead, and after a few missed attempts, half-back Dion Aiye eventually picked it up and darted 20 metres to the line. After much deliberation, the video referee awarded the try, to the delight of the 18,180 crowd that had packed in to Headingley.
Papua New Guinea‘s purple patch at the start of the second half continued, as Mead’s break forced a drop out, and New Zealand were then dealt a blow when Thomas Leuluai, on for his first appearance of the tournament following a groin complaint, was helped off barely minutes after coming on.
Normal service was resumed on 50 minutes though, as New Zealand shifted right close to the line, and Whare stepped inside for a walk in.
He grabbed his second try shortly after, spinning in a tackle and forcing his way over for a benefit of the doubt decision by the video referee, and loose forward Elijah Taylor got in on the act too, collecting a loose ball off Alex Glenn after Goodwin had knocked back Johnson’s kick.
There was time for Sonny Bill to be denied a fourth by the video ref but Papua New Guinea could hold their heads high following their second half effort, and they finished the game with a flourish.
Photo courtesy of www.swpix.com
New Zealand: Hoffman, Tuivasa-Sheck, Whare, Goodwin, Vatuvei, Foran, Johnson, Matulino, Luke, Bromwich, Glenn, Williams, Taylor. Interchanges: Moa, Kasiano, Nu’uausala, Leuluai.
Scorers: Tries – Goodwin (2), Tuivasa-Sheck (7, 11), Williams (15, 27, 40), Nu’uausala (29), Whare (50, 57), Taylor (68) Goals – Johnson 8/10
Papua New Guinea: Mead, Abavu, Yere, Paniu, McDonald, Thompson, Aiye, Costigan, Wabo, Bruno, Nandye, Chan, Pandia. Interchanges: Albert, Aiton, Tali, Mexico.
Scorers: Tries – Aiye (42), Albert (80) Goals – Paniu 1/2
Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds