Sonny Bill Williams scored a first-half hat-trick of tries as the World Cup holders cruised to a predictable 10-try rout of Papua New Guinea in front of a near-capacity 18,180 crowd at Headingley.
The former All Black was in awesome form as the Kiwis scored at a point a minute up to the interval but the brave Kumuls at least stemmed the tide in the second half to bow out of the tournament with some pride.
The only disappointment for New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney was the sad sight of former Wigan half-back Thomas Leuluai limping off early in the second half, just two minutes after entering the field as a substitute.
Leuluai had missed the Kiwis’ opening wins over Samoa and France with a groin injury and it looks as if his World Cup could now be over.
The Kiwis will also be anxiously awaiting the outcome of a match-review panel after prop Ben Matulino on report for an alleged cannonball tackle.
It was all too easy for the Kiwis from the moment centre Bryson Goodwin touched down a slide-rule kick from stand-in captain Kieran Foran on two minutes while right winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck enhanced his growing reputation with a brace of early tries.
The 20-year-old Sydney Roosters winger juggled with the ball after Foran’s high kick before forcing his way over the corner and then demonstrated his dazzling footwork to go in for his second.
Williams stretched out of a three-man tackle to score his first World Cup try – his first for the Kiwis since 2006 – on 14 minutes and smashed his way through the Kumuls’ flimsy defence 12 minutes later.
The powerful second rower unselfishly put substitute Frank-Paul Nu’uausala over for a try before taking Johnson’s pass to complete his hat-trick 30 seconds before the interval.
Apart from a weaving run from full-back David Mead, the Kumuls-supporting South Stand had little to cheer in the first half and the biggest roar came when Johnson struck the woodwork with his easiest kick of the night.
The cheers rung loudest, however, 90 seconds into the second half when Papua New Guinea scored their first try.
A run down the left flank by second rower Jessie Joe Nandye opened up the New Zealand defence for the first time and, although his pass failed to find support directly, scrum-half Dion Aiye collected a rebound off his legs to sprint to the line.
Francis Paniu, one of Hull KR’s three PNG recruits for 2014, kicked his side’s first goal as the Kumuls fought on, delighted their new supporters when Wellington Albert finished off a break.