The All Blacks were made to work hard for a 38-31 win over Japan in Tokyo on Saturday as they kicked off their northern hemisphere tour.
Brodie Retallick was shown a 66th-minute red card for dangerous play to set up a nervy finale for New Zealand at a sold-out National Stadium.
Kazuki Himeno scored a late try but it was not enough for a spirited Japan side looking for their first-ever win over the All Blacks. Retallick, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Caleb Clarke and Hoskins Sotutu all scored tries for New Zealand, who will now head to Europe to take on Wales, Scotland and England.
Japan made a bright start to the match but New Zealand scored the opening try in the 11th minute. Dane Coles broke through a tackle by Japan’s Warner Dearns and then passed it on for Retallick to gallop home.
Richie Mo’unga added the extras before Takuya Yamasawa got Japan on the scoreboard with a pen-alty minutes later.
Kotaro Matsushima prevented the All Blacks from scoring another try when he held the ball up brilliantly in the tackle after Ennor had latched onto Mo’unga’s clever chip through.
But there was nothing the home side could do when Ennor crossed the line in the 26th minute to finish off a slick move for the All Blacks’ second try of the afternoon.
Reece added another just over five minutes later when Mo’unga flew in to pick off a long line-out throw and feed the winger for the try.
Japan stopped the score from getting away from them when Yamasawa crossed the line, following fumbles in the All Blacks defence from Stephen Perofeta and Ennor.
And the home team hauled themselves right back into contention when Yutaka Nagare scored another right before the half-time hooter after a quick-thinking offload from Dylan Riley.
New Zealand stretched their lead just minutes after the restart when Clarke broke through the Japanese defence.
But Japan hit back again in the 56th minute when Dearns charged down Finlay Christie’s kick and held to the ball to race over the line.
Sotutu scored a try in the 61st minute and Retal-lick saw red five minutes later after charging reck-lessly into a ruck. Himeno scored a late try for Japan to set up a nervy finale but New Zealand held on for the win.—APP