All Blacks romp to 13-try victory

By Gregor Paul

Victor Vito deflects Japanese players. Photo / Christine Cornege
Victor Vito deflects Japanese players. Photo / Christine Cornege

All Blacks 83
Japan 7

Finally a World Cup blow out and any nerves about injuries and erratic work by the All Blacks have been kicked to touch.

Booted into the back row of the stands as there was a pleasing assurance about the way the All Blacks went about their business. The forwards resisted the temptation to see the whole thing as a bit of pass and giggle and kept their structure; kept their senses on high alter at the tackled ball and ratcheted things up quite significantly at the scrum.

Japan, hardly the biggest rugby side in the World Cup, were given a taste of black medicine that will have been hard to swallow. Such was the All Black power in the set-piece that there were times when it was hard not to be genuinely fearful for the well being of the Japanese players.

Bigger, tougher scrums than the Japanese lie ahead for the All Blacks so they will have been delighted to charge through so convincingly.

The performance was always more important than the result. That the All Blacks were going to win was never in doubt despite the way Japan troubled France in their opening game.

The All Blacks were like a Communist military regime - desperate to provide a grandstanding, over the top show of power; they wanted all the heavy artillery (well, those who were fit enough) to be out in the main square, running through the drills and make everyone sit up and take notice.

After an opening weekend where the minnows had their moment, someone from the established crew of heavyweights had to take a stand. As hosts, the All Blacks duly obliged and while they were still bothered by a persistent error rate, they found plenty of flow and rhythm.

When things opened up after 25 minutes, the All Blacks showed the world how to play the ball out of the tackle and how to create and manipulate space. They were a bit fortunate at times that Japan didn't have the strength in their individuals to make more of a defensive impact, but it probably didn't make that much difference.

The All Blacks had support runners queuing up and a lot of the big man, like Jerome Kaino and Adam Thomson had an obvious desire to stay on their feet and drive through the tackle.

Ma'a Nonu was the key to much of the All Blacks' best work - he straightened, bashed and passed to give proceedings a direct, no nonsense appeal. His midfield partner, Conrad Smith, was much the same with some softer, subtle touches to keep the wheels rolling.

It was no surprise, then, to see Sonny Bill Williams enter the contest on the wing - and not just because Graham Henry hinted at such a move prior to kick-off.

The Nonu-Smith combination gives so much to the All Blacks. They play with so much composure and awareness that they enable those around them to shine that little bit more brightly.

Williams brings his own particular set of gifts as he showed when he scored with his second touch of the ball - a bit of midfield trickery, an inside pass and he thundered through the middle. When he's pulled onto the ball, forced to attack it he's way more effective than when he lets the defence come to him.

His gallop off his wing to finally feed Nonu for his first try was compelling viewing. The ball in one hand, loping to the corner - there was a touch of Colin Meads about it.

New Zealand 83 (C. Smith, R. Kahui (2), J. Kaino, K. Mealamu, A. Ellis, C. Slade, S. Williams (2), I. Toeava, A. Hore, M. Nonu, A. Thomson tries; C. Slade 9 cons)
Japan 7 (H. Onozawa try; M. Williams con)


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