Monday 11 December 2017

Henry delight after All Blacks march on

New Zealand coasted to their second successive World Cup bonus-point victory as they predictably outclassed Japan at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium.

The tournament favourites ran in 13 tries during a one-sided Pool A encounter, while out-half Colin Slade contributed 23 points.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said his team were better than their effort in the opening match against Tonga and had a much better structure to launch their attack. "We improved considerably, which was pleasing. We didn't try to push the game too much. We just want to get better each game," he said.

New Zealand shredded Japan at regular intervals, with wing Richard Kahui (2), substitute Sonny Bill Williams (2) centres Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu, hooker Keven Mealamu, full-back Isaia Toeava, scrum-half Andy Ellis, flankers Jerome Kaino and Adam Thomson, Slade and Andrew Hore touching down.


Slade added nine conversions, although Japan at least gave their supporters something to cheer when wing Hirotoki Onozawa claimed a consolation score midway through the second half that Murray Williams converted.

The All Blacks were without injured trio Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina, but they still found early rhythm as Smith celebrated his 50th cap with a fourth-minute try.

Japan spent much of the first period defending as Kahui and Kaino added tries during a five-minute spell of pressure. Slade missed three successive kicks at goal, which was a worry for Henry as Carter looks to shake off a back problem before next Saturday's group decider against France.

Slade finished the game at full-back, when Piri Weepu replaced him at out-half in the 59th minute, but Henry was quick to defend his performance.

"I think we've seen the back-up five-eighth -- he was picked a month ago and went better as the game went on," he said.

Skipper Mealamu posted a fourth try just before the break, converted by Slade, as New Zealand eased away from Japan. And then the floodgates were prised open with further scores for Ellis and Slade, with the No 10 booting two more conversions.

Life threatened to get even tougher for Japan when Williams went on early in the second half, replacing wing Cory Jane, and New Zealand struck again through Kahui's second try.

Williams took less than 10 minutes to breach Japan's defence, ghosting through in midfield and then his brilliant run created a try for Nonu after Toeava and Hore had touched down.

And Williams completed the scoring spree when he rounded off a flowing move in the dying seconds.

New Zealand -- Toeava (Weepu 62), Jane (S Williams 44), Smith, Nonu, Kahui, Slade, Ellis (Cowan 62); Woodcock, Mealamu (Hore 44), O Franks (Afoa 64), Thorn (Boric 72), Whitelock, Kaino, Thomson, Vito (A Williams 58). Tries: Smith, Kahui (2), Kaino, Mealamu, Ellis, Slade, Williams (2), Toeava, Hore, Nonu, Thomson. Conversions: Slade 9.

Japan -- Ueda (Webb 52), Usuzuki, Taira (Tupuailei 46), Imamura (Yoshida 71), Onozawa, Williams, Hiwasa; Kawamata, Aoki (Yuhara 64), Fujita (Hatakeyama 60), Ono, T Kitagawa, Taniguchi, Leitch, Kikutani. Try: Onozawa. Conversion: Williams.

Ref -- N Owens (Wales).

Irish Independent

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