Classic All Blacks win in japan

31st May 2008
The Classic All Blacks pipped Japan in Tokyo on Saturday, with a 15-13 win putting the brakes on the Cherry Blossoms' preparations for next month's Pacific Nations Cup.

But the locals emerged with credit from a game played in cool, damp conditions at the National Stadium. They were seconds away from taking a 5-0 lead into the break.  Japan wing Kosuke Endo had burst clear for a 16th-minute try but hooker Anton Oliver drove over after the half-time buzzer had sounded to restore parity.

Classic All Blacks full-back Ben Blair successfully converted to give the New Zealanders a 7-5 advantage at the break, and Doug Howlett raced clear to make it 12-5 for the Kiwis soon after the restart. However, the visitors were immediately pegged back when wing Hirotoki Onozawa scored two minutes later.

A penalty from Blair made it 15-10 before New Zealand-born James Arlidge reduced the deficit again by punishing the visitors for a knock-on in front of their posts but Japan could get no closer.  "I'm proud of the players. I'm very pleased with the commitment and the tackling," said Japan coach John Kirwan.

"We were down on our own goal line for 10 minutes and we kept bashing the best players in the world. They were tired because we were smashing them."