A second string All Blacks side featuring eight debutants crushed Japan 69-31 in a thriller of a try-fest in Tokyo on Saturday with centre Ngani Laumape running in a hat-trick for the world champions.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga scored one of New Zealand’s 10 tries and kicked a penalty and seven conversions for 22 points as they taught next year’s World Cup hosts a lesson in front a record crowd for a rugby match in Japan of 43,751.
Hooker Dane Coles nabbed New Zealand’s first try on his return to the side after almost a year out with injury while winger George Bridge scored a brace, including one with his first touch as an All Black.
Japan were lively in attack and scored five tries to contribute to the 100-point tally for the match but could not contain the All Blacks in defence, missing 25 tackles on the way to an overwhelming defeat.
“There was a fair amount of risk going into this game but we felt that the rewards were going to be a lot bigger than the risk if we got things right,” New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said.
“A number of players tonight have done themselves very proud.”
“People keep asking us how we keep finding the talent. It’s the programmes back home and also because we give them opportunities.”
“We have learnt a lot about people this week.”
A close-to-capacity crowd at the Ajinomoto Stadium were allowed to dream of an improbable victory when lock Samuela Anise charged down Jordie Barrett’s kick to score the first try of the game after five minutes.
However, the new look All Blacks soon surged into gear and after Coles went over in the corner following a fine pass from Laumape, the All Blacks were in control.
Mo’unga broke through a Japanese tackle to score his first All Blacks try on 20 minutes before Laumape opened his account to give New Zealand a 24-7 lead after half an hour.
Tries from Japan number eight Hendrik Tui and centre Timothy Lafaele either side of Laumape’s second and a maiden score for All Blacks scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi meant the hosts kept the halftime score respectable at 38-19, though.
Bridge, a halftime replacement, scored the try of the game with his first touch as a test player following a quick break from Mo’unga.
The influence of Japan’s assistant coach, former Otago Highlanders boss Tony Brown, was evident in much of the attacking play from the home side.
This was no more apparent than when Jamie Henry, who was making his test debut for Japan, ran onto flyhalf Yu Tamura’s kick through to score in the corner to reduce the All Blacks lead to 21 points with just under half an hour remaining.
However, tries from winger Waisake Naholo and centre Matt Proctor as well as further scores from Laumape and Bridge piled on the points to give a fair reflection of New Zealand’s dominance.
The home crowd was treated to the final try of the match, a second from Lafaele with 10 minutes remaining, as Japan amassed their highest points tally against the All Blacks.
During their three previous meetings with New Zealand, Japan had lost by an average of 84 points so the margin of defeat was perhaps a sign of improvement one year out from the World Cup, where on this display they will threaten any defence.
Hansen can now head to England and link up with his senior players for their three-match European tour safe in the knowledge that he has plenty of depth waiting in the wings.