David Fifita showed a glimpse of the future in his first senior rugby league game for Australia with two tries as the Kangaroos beat New Zealand 25-12 to ignite the World Cup nines in Sydney.
While Tonga and Fiji were shock losers on Friday's opening night of the tournament at Bankwest Stadium, Fifita ensured Australia wouldn't join the list of upset losers.
The 19-year-old star ran in both of the Kangaroos' second-half tries with typical barn-storming runs, while he also put the Aussies on the front foot for a Kyle Feldt try.
In total, he finished with nine tackle busts, two line breaks, a line-break assist and an offload to easily be the best player so far in the competition.
The Brisbane gun isn't part of Australia's squad for next week's Test against New Zealand, but coach Mal Meninga suggests he might be called up next month to play Tonga.
"David Fifita - wow," Meninga said.
"What an outstanding game for us. He made a difference for us.
"He's playing Junior (Kangaroos next week). He's not in the first Test against the Kiwis but he may push for the second Test."
Josh Addo-Carr also scored a double for the Kangaroos, including the opener as he scorched the touchline for 70 metres after a Wade Graham bust.
Jamayne Isaako scored both of New Zealand's tries, the beneficiary of a Shaun Johnson cut-out ball for his first and a jinking run from the half for his second.
But the hero was Fifita, who had a taste of Nines action playing for an Australian under-23s side last year in a curtain-raiser for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
"I learnt to back myself in that," Fifita said.
"The boys really helped me during the week with my position.
"I like this type of footy. It reminds me a bit of indigenous footy, with open space and all that."
New Zealand should still advance on Saturday if they beat both the USA and Papua New Guinea, with the Kumuls beating the Tomahawks 27-10 to finish the night.
Samoa are in the box seat to survive the "group of death" in Pool C after flogging Fiji 32-17 and watching Tonga fall by the wayside.
Winger Brian To'o scored a double for Samoa, while Fiji - who were considered dark horses for the title - looked all at sorts.
They failed to get the ball to the NRL's leading try-scorer Maika Sivo until the final minute of the match, when his 70-metre effort to cross was all too late.
It came after the star-studded Tonga were shocked 30-7 by the Cook Islands despite boasting significantly greater NRL experience.
With only one team to advance from the group, Tonga and Fiji must win both of their games on Saturday and have results go in their favour to reach the finals.
In Pool B, Lebanon were also shock winners, putting aside the drama of their boycotting NRL stars to beat France 12-8 in the first game of the night.
England had no such dramas against Wales in their Pool B match, with incoming Canberra halfback George Williams impressing in the 25-4 win.
Australian Associated Press