The beginning was muddled with combinations taking time to settle. The error rate was higher than what was acceptable and the Japan XV featuring 18 internationals in their squad genuinely challenged the visitors at the breakdown. Flankers Michael Leitch and Shota Fukui were particularly disruptive and winger Semisi Masirewa was lively.
The All Blacks XV only led 11-6 at halftime but the form of first-five Stephen Perofeta was encouraging. The Blues pivot was eager to challenge the defense and he was rewarded with the first try following an incisive charge after 15 minutes. He also slotted two penalties from three attempts.
Perofeta punished further Japanese ill-discipline in the 45th minute to make it 14-6 but it wasn’t until ten minutes later the All Blacks XV really found their groove. Second-five Jack Goodhue combined with captain and halfback Brad Weber to start a movement he finished 60m and multiple handlers later.
The bench added conspicuous energy and polish. Halfback Folau Fakatava was full of running and capped his fine shift with a 25m individual try. Openside Billy Harmon showcased the form that makes him such a talisman for the Highlanders and hooker Tyrone Thompson was accurate and abrasive.
Starting lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi got through a pile of work and was able to extract steals at the ruck and Munster-bound centre Alex Nankivell combined well with Goodhue and waltzed over for an easy try after 66 minutes.
Weber told the press afterward.
“In this sort of heat, it’s quite tough to keep up with at times, but we know next week against their test team is going to be another step up,” Weber said.
“We just wanted to be really physical to try and take away a lot of their speed, and at times I think we did that well. We’re going to have to take it another step up because there’s some class players coming in next week.”
Japan XV 6 (Rikiya Matsuda 2 pen) All Blacks XV 38 (Jack Goodhue, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Alex Nankivell, Folau Fakatava tries, Stephen Perofeta try, con, 3 pen, Brett Cameron con)