All Blacks obliterate Japan by 76 points
In a World Cup match where only the scoreline was in doubt, New Zealand ran in 13 tries in an 83-7 win over Japan in Hamilton, New Zealand on Friday — its biggest victory since the last tournament.
Even after the late injury dramas within the All Blacks squad, with captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina dropping out of the match, they were still far too superior to a second-string Japan.
Richard Kahui and replacement winger Sonny Bill Williams scored two tries each.
"We got better," New Zealand coach Graham Henry said. "We started a wee bit slowly, but it was a better performance from last week [against Tonga], so I was pleased with that.
"We had better structure, so we scored a lot of tries from rucks on the side of the field and scored in the other corner. That was pleasing."
Japan coach and former All Blacks winger John Kirwan, who sacrificed his backup players to save his frontline starters for later matches against Tonga and Canada, said his squad wouldn't be overawed, but they were simply overwhelmed.
Japan never looked like suffering a repeat of the record 145-17 loss at the hands of the 1995 All Blacks, but it wasn't much of an improvement.
Kirwan said it was "a difficult psychological challenge" preparing his players for the match after the opening loss to France, and while he was disappointed by the scoreline, he thought it was a good experience for the young players who he was sure will feature in the 2015 Cup.
"We have to keep a firm eye on our goals, which are to win two games here," Kirwan said. "The All Blacks can put 60 on any team in the world, so we just have to get up tomorrow and look forward to Tonga.
"Our World Cup starts now."
The All Blacks began with a surprising lack of urgency for the first half-hour, but gradually warmed to the task on a cool evening in Waikato Stadium, with 11 players crossing for tries. They scored 10 of their tries in the last 50 minutes in their biggest win since the 85-8 romp over Romania in the 2007 tournament.
Colin Slade had a mixed game as Carter's backup at flyhalf, hardly the confidence boost he needed. He landed only one of his first four kicks, dropped an easy pass in his 22 and threw a loose pass out of a tackle that gave Japan its only try. But he converted nine tries, including his own, tallied 23 points, and Henry noted improvement from Slade as the match progressed.
The stars were the two senior backs outside Slade, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, appearing in his 50th test. Playing their 31st test together in midfield, the pair was unstoppable.
But even they weren't able to get going until Welsh referee Nigel Owens warned the Japanese backs for standing offside. Nonu and Smith turned the extra seconds into gold.
In their opening match, New Zealand took a blowtorch to Tonga in the first half, but began nonchalantly on Friday. Fullback Isaia Toeava kicked the ball out on the full with his first touch, the forwards walked to lineouts, passes were fumbled, and it added to the air of inevitability.
Even so, the first try didn't take long, starting when Japan let the ball roll loose out of a ruck. The defence came up too quickly, and No. 8 Victor Vito's break was finished by Smith in the third minute.
It took another 13 minutes for the All Blacks to score, with the forwards driving from a lineout then the ball being spun left to winger Kahui, who stiff-armed a defender off him to cross in the left corner.
The forwards showed their strength by pushing over flanker Jerome Kaino in the 21st, and kept on showing their muscle with an overpowering scrum. That made it 17-0, but not until the last 10 minutes of the half did New Zealand finally let loose.
Nonu broke, winger Cory Jane grabbed a fortunate rebound off a Japanese player, and captain Keven Mealamu slid in with his props outside him. Scrumhalf Andy Ellis finished off a Smith break, and then from the kickoff, Nonu's inside pass freed up Toeava to set up Slade's try and a 38-0 lead at the break.
After the half, there were further tries to Kahui, two for Williams and others for Toeava, Andrew Hore, Nonu, and flanker Adam Thomson.
Japan received cheers from the crowd of 30,500 for skipping shots at goal to go for tries, but they weren't able to capitalize until an intercept try from winger Hirotoki Onozawa, which made the score 59-7. Onozawa, playing in a Japan-record 10th World Cup match, has now scored in three Cups.