AVIGNON, France - Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke turned on the style as defending Rugby League World Cup champions New Zealand clicked into gear to beat France 48-0 yesterday (Fiji time) in Avignon.
Stephen Kearney's men were sometimes good, sometimes patchy as they beat Samoa in their opener last weekend, but they were much improved as they virtually assured themselves of top spot in Group B.
Halfback Johnson and South Sydney hooker Luke were too hot for France to handle, with Johnson scoring 24 points and Luke too quick and creative in and around the ruck.
New Zealand slugged it out with the French in a rough opening 30 minutes but, after that, it was a free for all as the Kiwis ran in eight unanswered tries.
As with last week's win, the Kiwis started well and just four minutes had gone when they touched down for the first time.
Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran's kick from the left fell perfectly into the hands of a rising Krisnan Inu, who duly dotted down his first try in New Zealand colours.
Kicks were ruining France, and a second try went against them from another one in the 24th minute when Johnson's kick found Bryson Goodwin.
Sydney Rooster Frank-Paul Nu'uausala made it a trio of first-half scores, taking a no-look pass from Luke under the posts in the 38th minute.
France's inability to find gaps was costly and, with 51 minutes gone, New Zealand showed them the way once more. Luke nipped away from the ruck and had the Warriors' Johnson on his inside who did the rest, adding the goal for good measure.
The same duo linked up in identical fashion four minutes later to add another six points — Luke far too clever and quick for France — before Greg Eastwood barged his way over for a sixth try which was also converted.
Morgan Escare nearly scored a consolation try for France as he went the length of the field on an intercept before Kevin Locke swept him up, and play quickly went back to the other end as Nu'uausala dragged two men over with him for his double.
An eighth score followed with the last play of the game, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck reaching out after a scramble, with Johnson maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot.