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Kiwis' fullback Joseph Manu sets new record in starring performance over Tonga

By AAP
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Joey Manu has made a stunning return to international rugby league, running for a record-breaking 398 metres in New Zealand’s 26-6 Pacific Test win over Tonga in Auckland.

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The Sydney Roosters centre’s efforts on Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium capped a dominant performance by a Kiwis side playing their first game in two years.

“If he ran two more metres it would have been way cooler,” was the cheeky assessment of New Zealand hooker Brandon Smith when told of his teammate’s feat.

It got a few laughs, but Smith was quick to point out just how important the effort was, describing it as “outstanding.”

“He’s just such a good teammate. A silent assassin, he just gets the job done,” Smith said.

Smith’s praise was echoed by coach Michael Maguire and captain Jesse Bromwich.

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“It’s just crazy. I thought his performance was right up there with the fullbacks I’ve ever played with,” Bromwich, who made 23 tackles in the win, said.

“He’s a different sort of body, beating defenders one on one and bringing the ball back with aggression. It’s really nice to see as a forward seeing a kick go over and then having your fullback flying back, getting rid of people whenever he felt like it.”

Maguire chuckled when asked if he’d found himself a consistent selection at fullback from now on, simply replying “yeah I think so.”

But he pointed out that the kick pressure the rest of the team put on the Tongan duo of Kotoni Staggs and Talatau Amone meant that he was more often than not catching the ball on the full.

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The man himself said the honour of being back in the black jersey is what motivated him, along with the challenge of wearing the No.1.

“Being back home, playing international league again … it was special,” Manu said.

“I love running with the ball, I got to do that … at fullback so it was pretty fun.”

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