All Blacks overpower battling Japan
New Zealand's All Blacks Beauden Barrett (second right) and Japan's Yoshikazu Fujita (left) fight for the ball at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on November 2, 2013
The All Blacks, who now travel to Europe to play France, England and Ireland, stretched their winning streak this year to 11 Tests but endured an uncomfortable opening half hour against the "Brave Blossoms".
"I'm disappointed with some of the players and I'll tell them," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen told reporters. "They had to get up for a game we were expected to win and some didn't manage to do that.
"We got caught occasionally trying to play Japan's game, which they play better than we do, a helter-skelter game. There were some lessons to be learned. But we scored eight tries so we can't grumble too much."
New Zealand's fearsome pre-match "haka" appeared to have a galvanising effect on Japan, who began the game tearing into tackles, pinching line-out ball and breaking up play to frustrate the World Cup holders.
It took New Zealand nearly 10 minutes to open the scoring when Charles Piutau broke away to register the game's first try, converted by Dan Carter.
A pair of Ayumu Goromaru penalties made it 7-6, and it stayed that way until flanker Sam Cane touched down in the 27th minute for the All Blacks, quickly followed by another breakaway down the left from Ben Smith, his 11th Test try of the year.
Captain Richie McCaw, making his 121st All Blacks appearance, then bulldozed over in the 32nd minute, once again converted by the trusty left boot of Carter.
At half-time, the crowd of 26,000, many in curly, pink "cherry blossom" wigs, roared in approval with Japan -- whose coach Eddie Jones was absent after a mild stroke -- having limited the damage to 28-6.
Ruthless in their two previous encounters, New Zealand's victories over Japan have resembled cricket scores, pulverising them 83-7 two years ago and by a record 145-17 in 1995.
Meeting Japan for the first time outside of the World Cup, the All Blacks made 14 changes to the starting line-up which beat Australia 41-33 two weeks ago, with lock Dominic Bird and wing Frank Halai making their debuts.
McCaw, playing at number eight to give understudy Cane more game time in his position, and Carter did start though, both players returning from injury.
"It felt good from a personal point of view to get through 80 minutes and get the feeling of the game," said McCaw.
"I don't think it's going to take too much to change the mindset for Paris. Next week is going to be a hell of a match so it won't take much to turn the screws."
Carter finished with a perfect five-from-five conversions before making way for Tom Taylor, having slotted the extra points after lock Jeremy Thrush had crashed over following a driving All Blacks scrum in the 51st minute.
A debut try from Halai followed after more New Zealand pressure in front of the posts.
Full-back Beauden Barrett produced arguably the highlight of the game, racing onto a clever chip-through from Tawera Kerr-Barlow to score and then successfully convert himself.
Piutau added his second try of the game to round out the scoring. Japan winger Kenki Fukuoka had the crowd on their feet after the buzzer when he touched down in the corner only to be denied on review, replays showing his left foot outside the touchline after a last-ditch tackle by McCaw.
"That was payback," smiled McCaw. "He got me good in the first half. I was pretty desperate to stop Japan scoring at the end. Perhaps they deserved to score a try but I got there and I didn't want to be the one that missed."
Having upset a weakened Wales team in June in a breakthrough 23-8 home win, Japan's preparations had been rocked when Jones was rushed to hospital two weeks ago. His assistant Scott Wisemantel took over in the dugout.
"I thought the first 20 minutes was very good," said Wisemantel. "But then we gave away cheap tries and that's where we let the game slip.
"There were lots of positives today -- the way the team endeavoured to attack with and without the ball. Our scrum has improved dramatically. The breakdown was probably the area we lost the game."
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