All Blacks rout Brave Blossoms
It was a rout, as was expected, with New Zealand scoring a 54-6 win over Japan in their Test at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground in Tokyo on Saturday.
Apart from the first 20 minutes, after which Japan trailed by just one point (6-7), it was a one-sided affair.
The Japanese players, as their moniker, Brave Blossoms, suggests, were always willing, but also outclassed.
In the end the eight tries to nil is about as big a rout as the All Blacks deserved. They were just about 50 points better.
The result is New Zealand's 11th consecutive win, in an unbeaten run that started after their loss to England in November last year.
The All Blacks now head to Paris to meet France on November 9, while Japan will play Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.
The match was significant for being the first outside of a World Cup between the two sides, with the All Blacks having recorded victories of 145-17 and 83-7 and few had expected the result on Saturday to be any different.
The world champions had said they wanted to use the match to introduce some of their less experienced players to test rugby, with nine players sent directly to Paris to prepare for their clash with France next week.
Steve Hansen gave starts to Dominic Bird and Frank Halai and also introduced Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen and Luke Whitelock off the bench to bring the total of new caps to 21 since he took over following the 2011 World Cup.
The visitors' superior ball handling at pace, proved the decisive factor with the All Blacks striking from deep, running into space and exploiting the home side's mistakes inside their own half to record the comfortable scoreboard victory though Hansen will have come concerns.
In the first quarter a tighthead scrum, a dysfunctional line-out and two early penalties went against the All Blacks for ruck infringements, as Japan declared themselves ready for the contest at the collision and breakdown area.
The All Blacks flexed their muscles in the ninth minute, however, Piutau notching his first Test five-pointer after Japan's fullback Ayumu Goromaru failed to collect a Beauden Barrett high-ball, Dan Carter's conversion giving them a 7-0 lead.
The hosts remained undeterred by the early strike and hit back four minutes later with a 30-metre angled penalty goal to Ayumu Goromaru.
Another offside penalty against the visitors marked the close of a scrappy first quarter before Dane Coles compounded the situation when he failed to release the tackled player, allowing Goromaru to add another three points.
Their woes continued when rain began to fall, Barrett then sending a clearing kick out on the full before Carter was ruled to have missed touch from a penalty.
The All Blacks then quickly clicked into gear with two converted tries in three minutes to Sam Cane and Ben Smith pushing the score out to 21-6 eight minutes from the break.
Richie McCaw then ran from the back of another unsteady scrum to muscle his way over out wide for their fourth try, Carter threading the conversion between the uprights for a 22-point lead.
In the shadows of half-time Japan were able to grind their way inside the All Blacks 22 but their attacking intensity had dropped, while the visitors' defensive work had improved to quickly snuff out the threat.
Mistakes at the set-piece and penalties continued to dog the All Blacks early in the second half, but they were able to extend their score when Jeremy Thrush drove over for his first Test try in the 50th minute.
Carter nailed his fifth straight goal before exiting play, Tom Taylor entering the fray at fullback, with Barrett switching to take the reins in the No.10 role.
Five penalties went against Japan in the 15 minutes following half-time, as fatigue began setting in through their forwards, the All Blacks gaining a clear advantage at scrum time, which enabled McCaw and Tawera Kerr-Barlow to feed Frank Halai for his own first Test try.
A 64th-minute midfield penalty saw McCaw opt for another scrum, the break in play allowing Coles to depart as Andrew Hore came on for his 82nd Test appearance.
An All Black tighthead soon after allowed Kerr-Barlow thread a grubber kick through for Barrett to touch-down ingoal; the utility adding the extras off the boot to make it 47-6.
Aaron Smith and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen were then given the green light to take the field, with Kerr-Barlow and Wyatt Crockett granted early showers.
Six minutes from time Piutau notched his second score when he won the race to ground the ball following a Francis Saili kick-ahead, Barrett adding the extras to make it 54-6.
Flank Sam Cane found himself sin-binned in injury time after the All Blacks conceded two cynical penalties while defending their line.
Japan wing Kenki Fukuoka made a dive for the line, but the covering tackle of McCaw and Steven Luatua forced him over the sideline in the final play of the game.
Man of the match: Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Francis Saili and Frank Halai looked energetic, while Steven Luatua was strong. Sam Cane had his moments, while Richie McCaw and Dan Carter showed their experience. Our award goes to All Black flyhalf Dan Carter, who showed he is still the No.1 No.10.
Moment of the match: This one is easy. It goes to the Sam Cane try in the 27th minute. Up till that stage Japan were putting up some resistance, trailing just by one point. However, the Cane score was the beginning of the end for the Brave Blossoms.
Villain of the match: I suppose we have to give it to Sam Cane for his yellow card in the 81st minute, but isn't it traditional for All Black teams to become that cynical when the opposition get near their tryline?
Pens: Goromaru 2
For New Zealand:
Tries: Piutau 2, Cane, Smith, McCaw, Halai, Thrush, Barrett
Cons: Carter 5, Barrett 2
Yellow card: Sam Cane (New Zealand, 81 – professional foul, killing the ball)
Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Toshiaki Hirose, 13 Male Sau, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Shoji Ito, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16: Yusuke Aoki, 17 Yusuke Nagae, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Luke Thompson, 20 Takashi Kikutani, 21 Kosei Ono, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yoshikazu Fujita.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)