Laumape leads way for Kiwi deputies
NEW Zealand attracted some criticism for fielding a second XV against Japan in Tokyo yesterday but it’s difficult to argue with a thumping win in an entertaining game that completed a two week charm offensive by Steve Hansen’s men ahead of the World Cup.
The All Blacks proper turned it on against Australia in Yokohama last week and their more than able deputies ran in ten tries against the Cherry Blossoms in a high tempo encounter in which Japan showed plenty of ticker to keep going and score five tries themselves.
Indeed the Japanese back line looked very dangerous throughout but Japan’s perennial problem – winning enough quality front foot ball – remains and is something coach Jamie Joseph and his staff need to urgently address. If they can just secure 10 per cent more possession they have the attacking firepower to do more than simply host the World Cup next year.
As for New Zealand, they have given valuable game time to squad members, bloodied a few for the first time, seen Dane Coles return to the fray and can reflect on an invaluable recce of Japan ahead of next autumn.
Centre Ngani Laumape – who scored a hat-trick – and lively utility back George Bridge who scored two off the bench – put their hands up in a meaningful way that suggests the New Zealand starting team is not yet set in stone.
Meanwhile his first choice team have already been in England for a few days shaking off any jet lag ahead of this Saturday’s clash with England. A job well done.
“Japan had some razzledazzle about them,” said Steve Hansen. “They were a great team to play against because they wanted to play rugby.
“It was a good day for New Zealand rugby, for the future particularly. We were very inexperienced and a lot of these guys won’t go to the next World Cup but they’ll certainly be involved, I would say, after that. So that’s pretty pleasing to see them get a head start, a taste of it.”
The Kiwis began with an early penalty from the impressive Richie Mo’unga – who would be a first team regular for most other T1 nations – but the pattern for a frenetic all action affair was set when Japan replied quickly through their Samoan lock Samuela Anise.
That kick started the All Blacks who took control of the match in a dynamic burst which saw tries for Coles – on his return to Test rugby after serious knee issues – Mo’unga and the first of the powerful Laumape’s three scores.
Impressive stuff but Japan were still firing plenty of shots themselves and their burly Aucklandborn Samoan No.8 Hendrick Tui demonstrated a big step to cross after Japan attacked from turnover ball.
New Zealand restored order through a try from scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Laumape’s second but there was just time for a third Japanese try before half-time, with centre Timothy Lafaele, another Samoan who learnt his rugby in New Zealand, touching down.
The match continued in similar vein after the break with out and out attack from both sides and the introduction of Bridge – so impressive for the Barbarians against New Zealand last year – if anything added to New Zealand’s firepower.
The Crusaders man scored two second half tries while Laumape completed his hat-trick and there were also scores for Waisake Nahole – another who would be an automatic starter for most nations – and Matt Proctor who was making his New Zealand debut.
Japan kept coming though and there were excellent tries from Jamie Henry and a second for the industrious Lafaele.
Hat-trick hero: Ngani Laumape scores one of his three tries for New Zealand