Kobe - The Maori All Blacks showed scant regard for Japan's recent hot
streak by pulverising the home side 61-21 in a friendly international at Noevir
Stadium on Saturday.
A run of 10 successive Test victories had propelled Japan's "Brave
Blossoms" into the world's top 10 for the first time but they offered
little resistance to the visitors, who entertained a crowd of 21 000 with a
traditional Maori haka before the game in Kobe.
The Maoris exploded from the blocks, smashing into tackles and forcing
numerous turnovers, running in eight tries in a one-sided encounter.
Ihaia West recovered from some early kicking problems to finish with 26
points, while Jason Emery touched down for two tries.
At 25-0 a cricket score looked in the offing until a strong rolling maul
earned Japan a penalty try to briefly stop the rot.
Japan coach Eddie Jones made wholesale changes to the team which beat Six
Nations side Italy in June, with several first-choice players unavailable.
But the Japanese were stunned by their hulking opponents, who had too much
power and guile, cruising to a 35-7 halftime lead.
"There's no loss in pride in losing to a better side," Jones told
reporters after his side's battering. "We learnt more today than in our
previous 10 games."
The prospect of a Super Rugby franchise coming to Japan for the 2016 season,
currently under discussion by organisers SANZAR, is one the former Australia
coach admits could be crucial for the future of Japanese rugby.
"That's why the potential of getting a Super Rugby side is so important
to Japan," added Jones. "We need our top 30 players to play at a
higher level of rugby every week. When a side is giving away that advantage in
physicality you can't afford to be inconsistent in your skills, and that's what
we were today."
Maori coach Colin Cooper paid tribute to his players after stretching their
own winning streak to 17 matches.
"Japan had to chase the game," he said. "When you do that you
have to take risks and some of the tries we scored today were quite soft."
The two teams meet again in Tokyo next weekend.
Tries: Penalty tries (2), Lelei Mafi
Conversion: Goromaru (3)
Tries: Eves, Emery (2), Polwart, West, Milner-Skudder, Ngatai, Lowe
Conversions: West (6)
Penalties: West (3)
Yellow card: McKenzie
15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Male Sau, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Hayden Hopgood, 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shoji Ito, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Keita Inagaki, 17 Hiroki Yuhara, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Karne Hesketh.
New Zealand Maori:
15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Charlie Ngatai (c) 11 James Lowe, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Mike Kainga, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Venue: Noevir Stadium, Kobe
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardne (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)