Maori All Blacks squeeze past Japan

Date published: November 8 2014

A late Dan Pryor try secured the Maori All Blacks a hard-fought 20-18 victory over Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.

A late Dan Pryor try secured the Maori All Blacks a hard-fought 20-18 victory over Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.

The Maori All Blacks went in to this match full of confidence after they thrashed the Brave Blossoms 61-21 in Kobe last weekend but, as the scoreline suggests, things did not go as smoothly in this encounter.

Pryor’s try came in the 80th minute, after the visitors took a quick throw-in at a line-out inside Japan’s half and after the ball went through several pairs of hands the dreadlocked flanker dived in at the right-hand corner to break Japanese hearts.

That was a cruel ending for the hosts, who fought back from a 15-5 half-time deficit to take an 18-15 lead shortly before Pryor’s matchwinning try.

Earlier, Japan started brightly and had the bulk of the possession during the game’s opening quarter but could not convert their dominance in to points.

The Maori All Blacks battled to get their hands on to the ball during those early stages and when they were trapped inside their 22 they slowed the ball down cynically at the rucks which led to them conceding several penalties.

New Zealand’s indiscipline at the breakdowns eventually led to referee Angus Gardner brandishing a yellow card as early as the eighth minute. Tom Franklin was the guilty party after he failed to roll away at a ruck close to his 10-metre line.

Japan took a shot at goal but Ayumu Goromaru’s effort was unsuccesful.

Shortly afterwards, the visitors made them pay when Cody Taylor scored against the run of play. The Canterbury hooker ran on to a pass from Pryor, midway between the halfway line and Japan’s 22, before showing a superb turn of speed to outrun the cover defence before crossing over.

Ihaia West added the extras and in the 24th minute the Maori All Blacks notched their second try when Nehe Milner-Skudder dotted down in the right-hand corner after joining his backline at pace and gliding past two defenders.

West missed that conversion but slotted a penalty shortly afterwards, after Shinya Makabe infringed at a ruck. Japan then got their first points on the scoreboard, just before half-time, via a well-taken try from Akihito Yamada.

He scored in the left-hand corner after beating Milner-Skudder with a deft side-step inside the visitors’ 22. This after Goromaru did well in the build-up to draw in Kurt Baker before offloading to Yamada.

Japan started the second half like they did in the opening period and were soon on the attack deep inside the Maori All Blacks’ 22. The Brave Blossoms’ strength at scrum-time was rewarded when they were awarded a penalty try in the 47th minute.

Goromaru added the conversion and drew his side level at 15-15 with a penalty in the 55th minute. West then had an opportunity to restore the visitors’ lead, after Luke Thompson was penalised for going off his feet at a ruck, but the Maori All Blacks fly-half’s kick struck an upright and the home side gained a reprieve.

The rest of the half saw Japan gaining the upperhand and they did well to restrict play mostly to the forwards before striking out wide with their backs.

The visitors – who thrived on Japan’s errors in Kobe – seemed shell-shocked by the intensity of the Brave Blossoms’ forward effort which was eventually rewarded when Goromaru slotted another penalty in the 74th minute after Pryor was penalised for not releasing a tackled player.

That gave Japan the lead for the first time but they were denied a series clinching win by Pryor’s five-pointer at the end.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Tries: Yamada, Penalty try
Con: Goromaru
Pens: Goromaru 2

For Maori All Blacks:
Tries: Taylor, Milner-Skudder, Pryor
Con: West
Yellow Card: Franklin

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Karne Hesketh, 13 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Male Sau, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shinya Makabe, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Nagae, 17 Hiroki Yuhara, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Hayden Hopgood , 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.

New Zealand Maori: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai (c), 11 James Lowe, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Dan Pryor, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 MIke Kainga, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Joe Royal, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Mitch Crosswell, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Joe Webber

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

By David Skippers