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Junior All Blacks See Off Tenacious Japan

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Junior All Blacks See Off Tenacious Japan

Wellington, June 23 NZPA - The Junior All Blacks went from casting shadows to chasing them before beating Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup rugby match in Fiji today.

The New Zealanders won 52-21 Lautoka despite a hugely indifferent performance.

However, the result maintained their unbeaten record after three matches in this year's four-team competition also featuring the national sides from Fiji and Tonga.

It appeared all too easy for the Junior All Blacks in the first half as they scored six tries to lead 40-0 before they went off the boil and Japan redoubled their efforts.

The Japanese caused some embarrassment for their more fancied opponents by scoring three converted tries in the third quarter to peg the gap back to 21-40 before the New Zealanders had the final say with the last two tries of the match.

Coached by All Blacks great John Kirwan, Japan had their moments in the first half but they were few and far between against a Junior All Blacks side who revelled in the freedom gifted them by the weak tackling Japanese.

The New Zealanders were too physical at the breakdown where the loose forward trio of Sione Lauaki, Victor Vito and Alando Soakai dominated.

Vito, a former sevens star with higher aspirations in the 15-man code, particularly enjoyed the open nature of the contest.

His two tries were both special, the first coming in the 12th minute when he picked up a loose Japanese pass, palmed off one would be tackler and sprinted 60m to the line.

His second, in the 33rd minute, saw Vito chip ahead with his left foot and casually regather en route to his team's fifth try.

They had time for one more before halftime, too, with Lauaki the beneficiary of a midfield break by fullback Israel Dagg.

In between this action, first five-eighth Colin Slade, lock Craig Clarke and wing Hosea Gear all crossed for tries.

The New Zealanders dropped their standards early in the second spell when Japan raised their spirits as captain and No 8 Takashi Kikutani scored a try via a lineout drive.

They then lost prop John Schwalger temporarily when he was sinbinned for a professional foul in the 54th minute, further disrupting their increasingly disjointed efforts.

Japan continued to press and the combination between two of their New Zealand backs, Ryan Nicholas and Jack Tarrant, saw them double their score midway through the spell.

Second five-eighth Nicholas pierced the defence on an angled run and floated a high pass for wing Tarrant to accept before dotting down. Nicholas added his second sideline conversion for good measure.

Centre Koji Taira then added to the New Zealanders' discomfort when he squeezed through a small midfield hole for his team's third try in the 62nd minute.

Only now did the Junior All Blacks lift their intensity.

Stung by the second half reversal in fortunes, they upped the tempo, attacking to the far right before spreading the ball to the far left where Lauaki was left the simple duty of strolling across the tryline.

Gear had the final word in the dying seconds with his second try to enable the New Zealanders to raise their half century.


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