New Zealand Maori second half sinks Japan

A seven-try, second-half blitz, including a hat-trick from Hosea Gear, swept the New Zealand Maori to a 65-22 victory over Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup rugby match on Saturday.

Japan led 22-17 at half-time but were unable to hold back the Maori as they stepped up the pace, and made their passes stick, through the second half.

The New Zealand Maori’s first bonus-point win since the opening round defeat of Tonga set them up for a championship showdown against the only other unbeaten side, Australia A, in the final match next weekend.

For some of the Maori there was a challenge within a challenge in the match with loose forwards Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam the front runners to be called into the All Blacks to replace injured captain Richie McCaw.

Locks Jason Eaton and Ross Filipo are also in line for All Blacks duty in the opening Tri-Nations Test against South Africa next weekend as cover for Ali Williams.

The Maori, who prefer a free-flowing game, were victims of their own high error-rate in the first half as loose passes went to ground and Japan were quick to capitalise.

Captain Tamati Ellison said that with ample possession it was a matter of being patient and waiting for the tide to turn.

“We’ve got some good ball players, and once we freed up the arms it was alright,” he said.

“Early on we were probably a bit too structured for our type of rugby.”

In a see-saw opening period, Japan’s flyhalf James Arlidge opened the scoring with a penalty only for the Maori to reply with a bruising run down sideline by Filipo to open the way for a try by Zar Lawrence.

Fullback Bryce Robbins scored Japan’s first try from a rehearsed move after the smaller visitors had opted for a scrum instead of a penalty.

Robbins was also instrumental by tries from Christian Loamanu and Luke Thompson, both converted by Arlidge as Japan completed their point scoring in the first half.

Callum Bruce and Tamati Ellison scored for the Maori, with Bruce adding a conversion to leave the Maori trailing by five points going into the second half.

But the new-look Japan side, featuring 10 changes from the team beaten 24-12 by Fiji last week, played well below their best in the second half leaving the New Zealand Maori to cash in on soft-tackling as they added 48 points in the final 40 minutes.

Replacement wing Gear scored three tries including a 90-metre solo effort from turnover ball, Lawrence and Bruce both touched down a second time while Dwayne Sweeney and Jason Kawau also scored.

Bruce ended up with 25 points from the match with his two tries, six conversions and a penalty.

Sapa-AFP –

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