Clinical All Blacks brush aside Japan

John Kirwan looked on as his plucky Japanese team were made to look like boys by a far superior New Zealand outfit in what turned out to be little more than a training run for the hosts. Japan surprisingly spent more time in the New Zealand half, with 54% territory, but were outpaced and outmuscled by a scything All Black team playing an excitingly clinical style of counter-attacking rugby.

Conrad Smith touched down after just four minutes, finishing off a flowing counter-attacking move from the All Blacks in their first meaningful attack. Desperate defence from the Japanese prevented further attacks from deep before Richard Kahui, looking assured in his new role on the wing, finished a neat move in the corner in the as Japan faded quickly in a fast-paced game. Isaiah Toeava looked incisive from his preferred position as fullback, showing his hand as a key catalyst of the All Black’s counter-attacking style in an entertaining first half. Further tries to Kaino, Mealamu, Ellis and Slade kept the score in touch with the clock due to a white hot All Blacks attack.

The second half began with the introduction of Sonny Bill Williams on the right wing to the delight of the home fans; however Kahui featured for his second from the left as New Zealand quickly resumed service. Williams broke through untouched with a run through midfield before e Japanese adapted briefly to the pace of the game. Japan managed to occupy the New Zealand half in their first real attack, ten minutes into the second half; looking to attack, the Brave Blossoms turned down a chance at three points and camped inside the New Zealand 22 before a lighting fast counter by the All Blacks put Toeava over for a length of the field try. The crowd erupted as Hirotaki Onozawa nabbed an intercept try soon after Toeava’s effort; however normal service resumed as Andrew Hore found himself unopposed on the wing. Nonu capitalised on a brilliant surging run from Williams to stretch the score to 69 points, while Thompson finished a run by Jimmy Cowan before Kahui’s centring kick found an on-side Williams for New Zealand’s thirteenth and final try.

Japan may be a little disheartened by the high score-line after a much more competitive outing against France; however the level of rotation in their squad will counteract any loss of momentum in future pool matches. The All Blacks posted the highest score in the World Cup so far in an impressive, if misleading performance in which fringe squad members Sonny Bill Williams and Isaiah Toeava pushed for later inclusion in a textbook example of counter-attacking rugby.