Japanese newbies hold AB might to 83-7
For those of us who detest non-contests, my biggest thrill came when Hirotoki Onozawa scampered away for Japan's sole try against the All Blacks at Hamilton last night.
The Suntory Sungoliath had wheels after our friend Colin Slade kindly donated him the ball.
Onozawa could justifiably have fronted their coach John Kirwan afterwards and asked him what did he expect, fronting up to the All Blacks with 10 newbies?
All right, Kirwan was looking to Tonga on Wednesday, but now he has an 83-7 loss on his CV.
The All Black coaches seemed happy, shaking hands as if a major battle had been won. But that surely comes against our nemesis, France, at Eden Park next Saturday.
It was a tribute to Waikato that they cashed in their dairy payouts, 30,484 of them, to watch an experimental training run for the ABs.
While the ABs were belching out the haka, the Rising Sons should have retorted: "Pick on someone your own size and tell that goofy lock to stop poking out his tongue at us". Japan were never going to win this one as long as the sun rises over Mt Fuji.
The noisy throng watched our midfield beast, Ma'a Nonu, beat up an absolutely hopeless Japanese centre, Koji Taira, who was finally hauled off and replaced by a robust Tongan, in Alisi Tupuaili. Taira's errors started the rot, contributing to the early All Black tries.
Graham Henry seems to have lost faith in his specialist wings, most of whom would gallop into every other team on the globe. The latest experiment is Sonny Bill Williams, and for once there seemed logic in that, because the man has a freakish right hand and must be somewhere on the field.
But yet again there are three All Blacks who are not good enough to be there in a genuine test and one of them goes by the same name of a gent who lives up on Massey hill and who demands I get off his back. His name is Slade. Sorry Colin, but under pressure you blew, yes, against mighty Japan. But unless he is injured, he cannot be replaced.
He botched pressure goal-kicks at the start, got in the way in back moves and his knock-on had Henry holding his ears. To be fair, Slade did nudge through a couple of grubbers but otherwise he passed and passed (which the TV commentators deduced was a return of his confidence) and did not once challenge the line.
Victor Vito again showed little expected of an All Black No8 who should be powering upfield with the ball against a second-tier nation. Jerome Kaino did more than the other two loosies combined and Thomson will never be an openside flanker as long as his socks point downwards.
Richard Kahui is a fine player but he's on the left wing because Henry et al did not buy into another of our fearful beasts, Hosea Gear. Once put in the clear, Kahui did not have the gas to clear out; that's because he is a centre.
At least Japan showed the other smaller nations how to spin the ball quickly and wide. But haven't they got a spooky national anthem.
So looking at what lies ahead.
Well, set your noisiest egg-timer beside your telly because while the Argentinian and Romanian forwards bunt each other at Invercargill, their backs will fall asleep. And so might the rest of us.
It is all TV hype to suggest Ireland will be a chance against the Wallabies tomorrow night. And did Wales climax against the Boks? The Welsh will have to watch the Samoans going wide like New Zealand teams do, largely because they are mostly all New Zealanders.
The England Gropers will even put the boring Georgian tractors to sleep at Dunedin, assuming Mike Tindall has got over a right royal bollocking from Martin Johnson.