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New Zealand Under 20 pile the pain on Japan

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Andy Burt     31 May 2018     Getty Images

Japan won the World Rugby U20 trophy last year to move up to the Championships but found out in the first minute just how tough the step up would be when New Zealand lock Will Tucker went over on the back of a sweeping team movement.

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Tucker’s try signalled the start of a devastating opening quarter as New Zealand surged to a 31-0 lead against a shell-shocked Japan side.

The match resembled a game of sevens in the opening 20 minutes as New Zealand kept the ball alive with a procession of well-timed offloads and long passes to confound the Japanese defence.

All Blacks Sevens star Vilimoni Koroi got on the board with a brilliant pick up to score but the moment of the first half belonged to centre Bailyn Sullivan.

The Waikato centre soared high to claim a kick off inside his own ’22 before setting off on a searing 80 metre run to score and beat a number of Japanese defenders. It may be the New Zealand Under 20s first game in France but Sullivan’s effort will take some beating as the try of the tournament.

At 31-0 after just 20 minutes, memories of the All Blacks 145-17 victory over Japan at the 1995 Rugby World Cup came flooding back. But there was to be no 100-point blowout as Japan showed great resilience and composure to dominate the next fifteen minutes.

They tested New Zealand upfront with some great work at the breakdown and well organised mauling. It looked like Japan had scored through powerful Moala only to have the try over turned by the TMO.

The problem for Japan was that when they conceded tries, they conceded them in clumps. And so it was to be in the second half as New Zealand added four tries in the third quarter to make it 62-0.

But like they did in the first half, Japan stemmed the tide for the remainder of the half until the final minute when wing Jamie Spowart crossed for a well-deserved hat-trick to complete the 67-0 victory.

New Zealand now turn their attention to Wales who stunned Australia 26-21 earlier in the day. The winner of the clash should top the pool and confirm their spot in the semifinals. 

Tune into TVNZ Duke to watch New Zealand take on Wales on Monday 4 June at 2.30am NZT.

Scorers:
New Zealand 67 (Will Tucker, Leicester Faingaanuku 2, Vilimoni Koroi, Bailyn Sullivan John Akauola-Laula, Tom Christie, Jamie Spowart 3, Xavier Roe tries, Kaleb Trask 5 con, Harry Plummer con) Japan 0
HT: 38-0