New Zealand beats Japan 69-31
TOKYO (AP) — Center Ngani Laumape grabbed a hat trick and flyhalf Richie Mo'unga scored his first test try among 22 points as a second-string All Blacks team overwhelmed Japan 69-31 Saturday in a one-off rugby test.
Mo'unga also kicked a penalty and converted seven of New Zealand's 10 tries — eight goals from nine attempts — to emerge as a leading figure in a match in which 15 tries were scored, five by Japan.
Winger George Bridge scored two tries on test debut, center Matt Proctor also scored in his first test for the All Blacks while hooker Dane Coles marked his return from a 12 months injury break with New Zealand's first try. Other tries for New Zealand went to scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tehuriorangi, winger Waisake Naholo and Mo'unga as a team containing eight new caps stretched New Zealand's unbeaten run against Japan to seven tests.
Center Timothy Lafaele scored two tries for Japan who refused to give up and were still in the match when they trailed 38-19 at halftime. Samuela Anise and Hendrick Tui also scored tries for the Brave Blossoms while New Zealand-born Jamie Henry touched down on debut.
New Zealand chose to rest its top 23 players ahead of tests against England and Ireland over the next two weekends and selected more uncapped players for a test than in any match since 1986. The most impressive of the newcomers was Bridge who came off the bench to score his double and to create a debut try for Proctor.
Laumape was man of the match for his outstanding performance in midfield but Mo'unga was not far behind with a commanding performance at flyhalf and for his effective goalkicking. While the win was emphatic, it would previously have been unthinkable for world No. 1 New Zealand to concede five tries to 11th-ranked Japan.
"At times we played quite well but maybe just lapsed a couple of times and credit to the way they played, they capitalized on those chances," All Blacks captain Luke Whitelock said.
"We had a lot of new guys coming in but the boys did well and everyone went out there and did themselves proud. A lot of guys got their debuts today, came on and brought some energy and did well."
While New Zealand scored the opening points from a Mo'unga penalty, Japan had the first try of the match after only four minutes through lock Samuela Anise who charged down and reclaimed a clearing kick by All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett.
Coles scored New Zealand's first try in the 14th minute after a breakout by Proctor and winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, put in space by a long pass from Laumape.
Mo'unga dummied his way through the defense in the 20th minute and Laumape scored his first try from a defensive lapse in the 28th minute, putting New Zealand ahead 24-7.
Japan refused to submit and hit back with a try to backrower Henrik Tui. New Zealand increased its lead with tries to Tehuriorangi and Laumape but Japan kept the match in the balance when Lafaele scored his first immediately before halftime.
The fast pace of the match suited New Zealand and Bridge's arrival from the bench sharpened their attack. He scored in the 47th minute from a lineout turnover as Japan threatened.
Again Japan responded with a try, this time to Henry who ran onto flyhalf Yu Tamura's brilliant crosskick.
Tries to Naholo, Proctor, Laumape and Bridge put the result beyond doubt but didn't quench the spirit of Japan who scored again through Lafaele to have the honor of scoring the first and last tries of the match.
"There were a lot of positives to take out of this game," Japan captain Michael Leitch said. "Having a game like this against the world's best is great for our experience."