The Kiwis' 34-14 victory over Mate Ma'a Tonga should go a long way towards making up for the disappointment of their 2017 Rugby League World Cup defeat, according to five-eighth Shaun Johnson.
The Kiwis suffered a shock defeat to Tonga in pool play of the World Cup 18 months ago, as part of an embarrassing effort on home soil, ending with a 4-2 defeat to Fiji.
Speaking to media after the win at Mt Smart Stadium, Johnson said that the Kiwis needed a victory over Tonga to restore pride in the jersey.
"Thinking back to 2017, and what a lot of us had to go through, and how disappointed a lot of us were people will never understand what was going on behind the scenes, and how we felt after we let our whole nation down", Johnson said.
"I was really nervous about this game. I was nervous because I've still got memories of what happened in the World Cup.
"It wasn't a grudge match, but in my mind we needed this, this was a big game.
"The fact that we can sit in the sheds, listen to music, talk, have a beer, connect and talk about the game, it's something that I'm absorbing.
"I'm probably the last one to have a shower because I just want to soak it all in. I'm pretty happy right now."