Rugby World Cup 2011: New Zealand 83-7 Japan
New Zealand (38) 83
- Tries: Smith, Kahui (2), Kaino, Mealamu, Ellis, Slade, Williams (2), Toeava, Hore, Nonu, Thomson
- Con: Slade (9)
Japan (0) 7
- Try: Onozawa
- Con: Williams
World Cup hosts New Zealand laid down a marker with a one-sided mauling of Japan in their Pool A encounter.
The All Blacks, showing 10 changes from the side that beat Tonga in their opening match, ran in 13 tries at a packed Waikato Stadium.
And while there will be far sterner challenges to come, the scoreline itself will make New Zealand's rivals sit up and take notice.
The All Blacks' next game is against France in Auckland next Saturday.
Much of the pre-match conjecture centred around the missing star duo Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, as well as full-back Mils Muliaina, with some sections of the New Zealand media suggesting they were not injured at all but merely being rested by coach Graham Henry.
Graham Henry All Blacks coach
“We played well most of the time, but there are still things we need to work on. There were four 50-50 passes in the second half, one of which resulted in a try. We're trying to cut those out of our game”
While Henry denied the accusations, the raft of unenforced changes in the starting XV also caused disquiet, with some critics suggesting a lack of continuity could be the undoing of the All Blacks, as it has been in the past.
Nevertheless, when outside-centre Conrad Smith, playing his 50th Test, opened the scoring with a try after only two minutes, it looked like a repeat of the record 145-17 beating New Zealand gave Japan at the 1995 World Cup might be on.
But it took until the 15th minute for the hosts to extend their lead, left-wing Richard Kahui darting over for a try after the ball was shipped down the line.
Blind-side Jerome Kaino scored his side's third try six minutes later after sustained pressure on the Japanese line before hooker Kevin Mealamu went sliding over following a scything run by centre Ma'a Nonu.
Graham Henry All Blacks coach
“We've got to go up another notch. It's a huge game against France next week but I'm pleased with the progress”
Shortly afterwards, scrum-half Andy Ellis touched down under the posts after a line-break by Smith before Slade made it six tries almost directly from the restart following a cute inside pass by Nonu to full-back Isaia Toeava.
Japan's backs did look to put width on the ball when they gained possession, but with coach and All Blacks legend John Kirwan having rested 10 of the side that performed so creditably against France in Albany last week, gaining possession was a rare occurrence.
In contrast, when the All Blacks had ball in hand, they found holes everywhere in the Japanese defence, with Nonu and Smith looking particularly potent.
Kahui sauntered over for his second try four minutes into the second half and replacement Sonny Bill Williams, playing on the wing for the first time in his eighth Test, brought up the half-century courtesy of a scissors move with Slade.
“While to most people the 83-7 drubbing might seem mightily impressive, in a country that frets about its rugby team as much as this one, it will not have blasted away the doubts that cling to the All Blacks like barnacles”
Toeava went over unopposed to stretch his side's lead but Japan got on the scoreboard on 56 minutes, wing Hirotoki Onozawa intercepting an attempted offload from Slade, who had a rather flaky game, and running in from the All Blacks' 10m line.
However, the hosts hit back and hit back hard, first replacement hooker Andrew Hore sliding over, then Williams careering out of his own half and leaving several defenders for dead before flipping the ball to Nonu to finish off a scintillating move.
"He certainly made a statement, didn't he?" said Henry of Williams who is primarily a centre but excelled when moved onto the wing against Japan.
"When he went on he had a positive performance. He certainly got the selectors thinking."
With 10 minutes remaining, Onozawa, playing in his 10th World Cup game, thought he had scored a second but replacement Kensuke Hatakeyama's round-the-back pass was adjudged to have been forward.
POOL A TABLE
New Zealand - P2 Won 2 Pts 10
France - P1 Won 1 Pts 5
Canada - P1 Won 1 Pts 4
Tonga - P1 Won 0 Pts 1
Japan - P2 Won 0 Pts 0
And there was time for two more All Blacks tries, first flanker Adam Thomson flopping over after a break by Jimmy Cowan, before Williams latched onto a clever cross-kick by Kahui for his second touch-down with three minutes remaining.
While Henry will no doubt earmark areas for improvement, and take into account the weakness of the opposition, it was a far more efficient and focused display than against Tonga and suggests the French will have their work cut out to avoid finishing second in the group in Auckland next week.
New Zealand: Toeava, Jane, Smith, Nonu, Kahui, Slade, Ellis; Woodcock, Mealamu, O. Franks, Thorn, Whitelock, Kaino, Thomson, Vito.
Replacements: Weepu (for Toeava 62), S. Williams (for Jane 44), Cowan (for Ellis 62), Hore for (Mealamu 44), Afoa (for O. Franks 64), Boric (for Thorn 72), A. Williams (for Vito 58).
Japan: Ueda, Usuzuki, Taira, Imamura, Onozawa, Williams, Hiwasa; Kawamata, Aoki, Fujita, Ono, T. Kitagawa, Taniguchi, Leitch, Kikutani.
Replacements: Webb (for Ueda 52), Tupuailei (for Taira 46), Yoshida (for Imamura 71), Yuhara (for Aoki 64), Hatakeyama (for Fujita 60), Y. Kitagawa (for T. Kitagawa 60), Vatuvei (for Kikutani 60).
Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).