New Zealand warmed up for the World Cup with a Bartercard International Challenge against Super League Grand Finalists Leeds Rhinos at Emerald Headingley.
The two sides last met in 2015 as a warmup before New Zealand played a three match test series against England. On that occasion the Kiwis ran out as 34-16 winners after leading by 10-6 at the interval. On the score board for Leeds were Joel Moon with two tries and Tom Briscoe with Jordan Lilley kicking two goals.
The bookies had given the Rhinos, and their returning guests, a twenty-four point start on the handicap coupon, even without a host of Grand Finalists who were rested ahead of the opening World Cup fixture.
New Zealand hit the front on six minutes after good early pressure, when Kieran Foran beat three defenders and found Jesse Bromwich who passed to Sebastian Kris to go in. Jordan Rapana added a simple conversion for 6-0.
Six minutes later and the Kiwis were in again with full back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad weaving through a broken Leeds defence from ten metres out to stretch for the line and ground. Rapana was on target again for 12-0.
Leeds were no more than passengers along for the ride as the Kiwis got their third try on sixteen minutes, Ronaldo Mulitano taking the pass ten out from the line and ducking under the Leeds tackler to ground in the corner. New Zealand were simply awesome. Rapana dropped his conversion short of the sticks, his only miss of the night.
The New Zealand onslaught showed no signs of waning when Kris collected his second of the night as he pushed away four Leeds attempted tackles to spin over. Rapana found the target again for 22-0.
It was exhibition stuff from the Kiwis, played at an excruciating pace, the Rhinos trailing in their wake.
A messy try from New Zealand on thirty-two with Jesse Bromwich bulldozing the Leeds defence out of the way and stretching for the line to score, some debate from the replays about whether the ball was bounced but referee Kicks pointed to the spot. Rapana added his easiest conversion of the night.
Kris completed his debut first half hat-trick with twenty seconds left on the clock, a walk-in try off a Tommy Leuluai pass for his easiest of the night. Rapana added the conversion for a half time lead of 34-0, the Rhinos getting demolished. Men against boys as the other World Cup sides watched on with growing alarm.
Four minutes after the restart the Kiwis took up where they left off in the first half. Jarome Hughes the provider and found a golden-haired Dean Whare to stumble over from close. Rapana added another goal to take the Kiwis to 40-0.
Sam Walters went close for Leeds on fifty, but the ball went to ground after a poor pass from Brad Dwyer was put down by Zak Hardaker. New Zealand took full advantage and went straight on the offensive and in a rolling move Jeremy Marshall-King was the player in support to take the pass and go over by the uprights. Rapana added another for 46-0.
Just before the hour mark Briton Nikora took the ball and hit the Leeds line at speed to give the tacklers no chance of stopping him as he went in for the ninth Kiwi try of the night. Rapana kicked his eighth goal of the night.
Within two minutes the tenth try was way too easy when Jahrome Hughes stepped off both feet to bamboozle the Leeds defence and go in from ten metres. Rapana missed a simple looking conversion, but the Kiwis were relentless.
New Zealand were now scoring at will. Mulitano breaking downfield before finding Nicoll-Klokstad with an onside pass to score from twenty metres to bring up the sixty. Rapana added the conversion from wide. New Zealand now close to a point a minute.
The was a massive pace distance between the two sides as New Zealand scored again on seventy. Leeds stripped the ball in a one-on-one tackle between Jesse Bromwich and Aidan Sezer, Bromwich regaining the ball to dot down. Hughes took over the kicking duties but was off target.
A solo try from Brandon Smith brought up the seventy as he dipped his shoulder and went in from twenty metres out. Tommy Leuluai took the conversion but was wide with his effort on his last performance.
A looping pass from Leuluai found Mulitano in space wide left to cross for his second of the night. Leuluai had another go at a career ending goal but he pulled it wide of the near upright.
This victory means very little to Leeds as an end of season farewell, but will strike fear into the sides who must play New Zealand in the opening rounds of the World Cup. The likes of England, Samoa and Australia have been fired a warning shot that the Kiwis are here to collect the trophy that they last won in 2008, and it would be a courageous man who would bet against them on this showing.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Tindall, Sa´u, Martin, Briscoe, Sezer, Austin, Walters, Leeming, Prior, Tetevano, Thompson, Cuthbertson. Subs: Sinfield, Donaldson, Mustapha, Dwyer, O´Connor, Taylor, Keinhorst, Hooley.
New Zealand: Nicoll-Klokstad (2T), Rapana (9G), Hiku, Kris (3T), Mulitalo (2T), Foran, Leuluai, Bromwich J (2T), Smith (T), Asofa-Solomona, Bromwich K, Nikora (T), Liu. Subs: Hughes, Tapine, Watene-Zelezniak, Marshall-King (T), Whare (T), Isa.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-20, 0-22, 0-26, 0-28, 0-32, 0-34 : HT : 0-38, 0-40, 0-44, 0-46, 0-50, 0-52, 0-56, 0-60, 0-62, 0-66, 0-70, 0-74: FT .
Lead Exchanges: New Zealand.
Referee: Rob Hicks.