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Next wave of All Blacks dismantle Japan

Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 4 November 2018, 12:46PM
The All Blacks have taken Japan 31-69 in a sensational game of Rugby. (Photo / NZ Herald)


There didn't appear to be anything cheap or unworthy about the All Blacks as they dismantled Japan with stunning precision.

Call them a weakened team, a second team even but don't call them undeserving of the jersey for the All Blacks were nothing but persistently excellent.

They played good rugby that was a triumph for their instincts and natural talents rather than any clever or detailed coaching.

And which country in the world right now wouldn't mind having an alternate test side as good as this one? Which other country could say they have anywhere near the same depth to have thumped Australia one week, changed all 22 of the 23 players and then thumped Japan the next?

Nor should the difficulty of their task in Tokyo be seen as anything other than significant.

This was a team that was thrown together on Monday morning and asked to face a Japanese team that wouldn't know how to lie down if they were in a room with a bed and nothing else but a sign saying 'lie down here'.

Good enough to beat the Springboks at the last World Cup, Japan remain a skilled, committed and tricky opponent with the capability of taking a big scalp again.

The shortness of the All Blacks preparation, unfamiliarity with one another and test football combined with the quality of Japan made this the sort of game that could easily go wrong at an alarming rate for the All Blacks.

But one hiccup aside when a Jordie Barrett clearance was charged down in the opening minutes to allow Japan a simple seven points and bring the crowd into proceedings, the All Blacks were composed, aware and slick enough to score on the back of most of the half chances they created.

Richie Mo'unga was the architect of most of their best work, confirming that he really is a classy footballer with the potential to come back to Japan next year and light up the World Cup.

Japan are renowned for the speed of their defensive line and yet it looked like Mo'unga had all the time in the world every time he had the ball.

There was never a hint of uncertainty or confusion in his own mind – he made his mind up early what he was going to do, committed to it and made it happen with a flow and accuracy that only those who are truly special can.

If there was a moment that showed what he's really all about, though, and why he's such a prospect it came early on the first half when he kicked a penalty for touch and carved too much off to kick it dead in goal. He shrugged it off and five minutes later when he had another kick from almost the same position, he was as bold as he was the first time but that fraction more accurate to ensure it went out.

Lesser players would have been more conservative, dwelling on their earlier mistake.

But not Mo'unga, who was by no means alone in impressing. There's some debate about whether Jackson Hemopo is a lock or blindside but what's not blurred is his ability to make his presence felt and get through the sort of hard graft that wins games without ever quite being fully appreciated.

Then there was Ngani Laumape, who scored a hat-trick by a combination of power, pace, astuteness and a neat grubber kick and collect.

And what about George Bridge? On at half-time for the injured Nehe Milner-Skudder, he scored with his first touch and then created a try for Matt Proctor with his second.

Unbelievably his third touch was a second try and it was a strong inference that he might be the next Ben Smith.

There was an even stronger inference that this team will be the next wave of All Blacks.

New Zealand 69 (D. Coles, R. Mo'unga, N. Laumape (3) T. Tahuriorangi, G. Bridge (2), W. Naholo, M. Proctor tries; R. Mo'unga pen, 7 cons; J. Barrett con)
Japan 31 (S. Anise, H. Tui, J. Henry, T. Lafaele (2) tries; Y.Tamura 3 cons)
HT: 38-19


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