The All Blacks XV have shaken off some first half wobbles to take a comfortable win in the first game of their short Japan tour.
A stronger second half featuring some free-flowing attack that put on 27 points and a disciplined defence that didn’t allow any response from the hosts led to a final scoreline of 38-6 in Tokyo.
Jack Goodhue, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Alex Nankivell and Folau Fakatava all found the chalk in the second half after what would have surely been a few stern words from coach Leon MacDonald at the break.
The All Blacks XV went to the sheds holding on to a slim 11-6 lead – an advantage that could’ve been even less had Stephen Perofeta not added a penalty after the hooter to end the shoddy first half.
It was untidy and at times even ugly as the two sides wrestled for control of the match with a high error count proving to be just as much an opponent as the opposition.
But the All Blacks XV were the more threatening. Perofeta gave his side an early lead as he sniped a hole off on an early scrum to find the line and a penalty kick soon after made it 8-3 but the Japan XV – featuring 18 capped players and led by longtime Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch – kept themselves in the contest.
Having opened the scoring with an early penalty, Rikiya Matsuda’s boot kept his side in it in the first half as he chipped over another three points to make it 8-6 heading into the break although the New Zealand scrum allowed Perofeta to make a little more breathing room.
Perofeta opened the second half with another penalty to push that lead further before the All Blacks XV started to get on a roll with Goodhue’s try off the back of a 70m counter-attack.
It was a good summary of how the second half would pan out; the New Zealand defence wouldn’t budge, Japan would eventually make an error one way or another and that would allow the All Blacks XV to strike.
That isn’t to say there weren’t still errors stunting the All Blacks XV’s momentum but they made the most of some key moments and with their defence holding up at the other end, it was enough to get them home.
Nanai-Seturo was the first to stroll on off a dodgy attack from a scrum before Nankivell went over minutes later off a much-cleaner move near the right wing.
A Fakatava special from a spilled lineout after the final hooter sealed the result and with it a winning start to the men’s international rugby calendar for New Zealand.
The All Blacks XV will know they have plenty to work on before taking on the Brave Blossoms for real next Saturday – both to ensure they come away with a 2-0 record in Japan and to continue pushing their personal cases for higher honours with Ian Foster.
All Blacks XV 38 [Stephen Perofeta, Jack Goodhue, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Alex Nankivell, Folau Fakatava tries; Stephen Perofeta 3 pen, con, Cameron con]
Japan XV 6 [Matsuda 2 penalties]