The All Blacks racked up 13 tries in a 83-7 thrashing of Japan in the second game in their quest to be crowned world champions.
It was a game the All Blacks were going to win—it was the way in which it was won that would determine what grade their performance would get.
As it transpired, the New Zealanders gave a passable performance—playing well without being outstanding—in a game that was hard to take a lot out of.
The Japanese struggled on defence, falling off too many tackles to ever be competitive, allowing the All Blacks to waltz through to score try after try after try.
The one that can be taken from this though, comes in the fact that the All Blacks showed that they were indeed capable of finishing and making the most of their opportunities. While many teams have struggled to convert their dominance into points so far in the tournament, the All Blacks showed that they can and will pounce given the smallest of opportunities. This could prove to be decisive as the tournament progresses, as the ability to take your chances quite often determines who wins and loses close matches.
Ma'a Nonu had a barnstorming game, giving the Japanese defence nightmares, making numerous breaks and creating some good tries for the men outside him while also bagging one for himself.
The looseforward trio of Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson and Victor Vito operated well, with Thomson in particular having a strong game, getting through plenty of work. Although this must be put in context, as the Japanese tight five struggled for most of the game, making the work of the All Blacks loosies that much easier.
The other talking point came in how Colin Slade would perform at first five-eighth, with Daniel Carter injured.
As it turned out, Slade gave a patchy performance, improving as the game went on. After a nervous start where he missed three of his first four kicks, he delivered a good performance. His distribution in particular was outstanding and was part of the reason for the dominance of Nonu in the midfield, giving him some excellent passes. In fact, every time he has pulled on the All Blacks jersey he has shown he is just as good, if not better attacking player than Carter. While this isn't everything and Carter is still in a class of his own, it is encouraging for the All Blacks to have a young player with such potential coming through.
The Japanese fought for the entire 80 minutes, throwing everything they had at the tournament favourites, but it was always going to be a tough ask. They were rewarded, however, with a try to Hirotoki Onozawa, who intercepted a Slade offload and ran 40 metres to score.
Japan will now look ahead to their game against Tonga on Wednesday, while the All Blacks take on France next Saturday in what will be the feature match of Pool A.
Tomorrow's action sees Argentina take on Romania, South Africa meet Fiji and Australia do battle with Ireland.
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