Match Centre: Japan 31-38 New Zealand

Brodie Retallick scored the opening try for New Zealand
Brodie Retallick scored the opening try for New Zealand
©Steve Haag

Japan 31-38 New Zealand, National Stadium, Tokyo

New Zealand successfully overcame a stern resistance from Japan as they sealed a 38-31 win in their opening fixture of their end-of-the year series at National Stadium in Tokyo.

The All Blacks will now face Wales, Scotland and England in their upcoming tour on 5th, 13th and 19th November respectively.

Brodie Retallick touched down early in the 11th minute after a series of passes by New Zealand and Richie Mo'unga converted to make it 0-7 before the home side responded back with a penalty goal from Takuya Yamasawa in the 19th minute.

The All Blacks doubled their tally as Braydon Ennor bursts through the defence after Hoskins Sotutu laid the ground work. Mo'unga kicked the conversion as the scoreline became 3-14.

The half-hour mark saw Roger Tuivasa-Sheck led the attack with eventually Sevu Reece finishing off and Mo'unga improved it to make it 3-21 before the Brave Blossoms reduced the deficit with Yutaka Nagare touching down after assist from Dylan Riley making it 10-21 at the end of the opening half.

It took New Zealand just one minute to get off the block in the second half as Caleb Clarke dotted down for the visitors before his effort was cancelled out by Warner Dearns' try in the 56th minute making it 24-28.

As the game entered the final quarter, Finlay Christie set up Hoskins Sotutu over and shortly New Zealand were down to 14 players by the 66th minute with Retallick sent-off for a high and dangers tackle on Himeno with the difference between the two teams remaining at 11 points.

Nevertheless, New Zealand managed to hold on Japan despite down on the numerical advantage until the 78th minute when Himeno collected the ball from base and dived from close range. Seung Sin Lee kicked the conversion but with no further breakthroughs, Japan went on to lose the encounter with a narrow four point margin.

Team line up:

Japan: 1-Keita Inagaki, 2-Atsushi Sakate, 3-Jiwon Koo, 4-Warner Dearns, 5-Jack Cornelsen, 6-Mitchel Leitch (c), 7-Kazuki Himeno, 8-Tevita Tatafu, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 10-Takuya Yamasawa, 11-Siosaia Fifita, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 13-Dylan Riley, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 15-Ryohei Yamanaka

Reserves: 16-Takeshi Hino, 17-Craig Millar, 18-Shuhei Takeuchi, 19-Kanji Shimokawa, 20-Faulua Makisi, 21-Naoto Saito, 22-Seungsin Lee, 23-Gerhard van den Heever.

New Zealand: 1-George Bower, 2-Dane Coles, 3-Nepo Laulala, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Tupou Vaa'i, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Sam Cane (c), 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Finlay Christie, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 13-Braydon Ennor, 14-Sevu Reece, 15-Stephen Perofeta

Reserves: 16-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 17-Ofa Tuungafasi, 18-Tyrel Lomax, 19-Patrick Tuipulotu, 20-Dalton Papali'i, 21-Aaron Smith, 22-David Havili, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown