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Second string All Blacks prove too strong for Japan

Japan were handed a rugby lesson Saturday at Ajinomoto Stadium as New Zealand showed the hosts just how to turn pressure into points, running in 10 tries in a 69-31 drubbing.

[Getty/Kyodo]

The All Blacks, with eight debutants in their match day 23, exploited Japan’s lack of pace in the midfield and some weak tackling to justify coach Steve Hansen’s decision to omit his senior players.

The Brave Blossoms showed glimpses of what they can do, crossing the chalk on five occasions. But their lack of consistency was ruthlessly punished by the men in black, with Ngani Laumape bagging a hat-trick and George Bridge a brace.

«I am obviously disappointed with the loss but not disappointed with the intent,» said Japan coach Jamie Joseph. «But we still have a long way to get to the level where we can beat a Tier One nation.»

Played under blue skies in the western suburbs of Tokyo at the venue for the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2019, Richie Mo’unga became the first player to kick the new Sirius match ball that will be used at next year’s tournament.

He received a second opportunity just three minutes after the kickoff as he slotted a penalty to start the scoreboard ticking over.

Japan struck back immediately, however, as Samuela Anise charged down a Jordie Barrett clearance and then beat the defense to dive on the ball as Japan went up 7-3.

But with Japan struggling in the set and loose, it was New Zealand who dominated the rest of the scoring in what was a disappointing first half by the hosts.

Dane Coles marked his return to test-match rugby with a try following good breaks from Nahe Milner-Skudder and Jackson Hemopo before Mo’unga made the most of some good pressure from his forwards to stroll over.

Ngani Laumape used his power to add a brace and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi scampered over following a misplaced pass from Japan as the Brave Blossoms fell off their tackles to give up what captain Michael Leitch some «soft tries.»

«Clearly when you make mistakes against a team like the All Blacks they make you pay for it,» rued Joseph.

Hendrik Tui and Timothy Lafaele made sure there was some respectability to the halftime scoreboard with five-pointers. But the Brave Blossoms turned around 38-19 down knowing they had a lot to do to turn things around.

It took the All Blacks just seven minutes to stretch their lead through Bridge before Jamie Henry gave the near-sellout crowd of 43,751 something to cheer about.

The former Japan sevens star and rugby league international acrobatically scooped up a kick pass from Yu Tamura to score a try in his first game for his adopted country.

But that just fired up New Zealand, with Naholo bringing up the half-century in the 57th minute.

Matt Proctor became another of the debutants to bag a five-pointer and there were further scores to Laumape and Bridge.

Lafaele finished off a good break from Kenki Fukuoka as Japan finished with their best-ever points tally against New Zealand. But it was nothing more than a consolation effort.

«There was a fair amount of risk going into the game,» Hansen said of his team selection. «But we felt the rewards were bigger than the risk if we got things right. There were a number (of players) who have done themselves really proud.»

Joseph, meanwhile, conceded his players had not helped themselves by kicking the ball away too much.

«We should have kept the ball in hand more in the second half,» he said. «That was down to a little bit of inexperience and if we had kept the ball in hand we could have done a little better.»

All — Kyodo News+

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