Cape Town – Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga sparked a second-string All Blacks side to a 69-31 victory over plucky Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
Mo’unga scored a try and went eight-from-nine with the boot in a sparkling 22-point display for the world champions, who ran in 10 tries against the 2019 World Cup hosts.
Ngani Laumape bagged a hat-trick of tries, while George Bridge marked his All Blacks debut with a pair after coming on at the start of the second half.
But New Zealand, resting their big-hitters for November Tests away to England, Ireland and Italy, were given a workout by Japan watched by a crowd of 43,000.
The Brave Blossoms scored five tries of their own — including the game’s first, run in by Samuela Anise after just three minutes to stun the visitors.
Hooker Dane Coles marked his return after a year out with a knee injury by grabbing New Zealand’s first try to settle nerves among a new-look All Blacks side.
The World Cup holders scored quickfire tries as Mo’unga dived over before Laumape latched on to a clever kick from Waisake Naholo to race clear.
Hendrik Tui kept Japan in touch with a controversial effort but Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Laumape punched through to extend New Zealand’s advantage.
Japan refused to back down, however, and Timothy Lafaele smashed over in the corner to reduce the deficit to 38-19 at half-time.
Bridge scored with his first touch as an All Black after a superb burst from Mo’unga before Japan grabbed the game’s highlight try, Yu Tamura dinking a pinpoint kick into the corner for Jamie Henry to dive over one-handed.
But the All Blacks replied with four tries in 12 minutes through Naholo, Matt Proctor, Laumape for this third of the game and a rampaging Bridge, who will have given New Zealand selectors a headache with his impressive cameo.
Lafaele stopped the bleeding for Japan by crashing over for his second try of the game, converted by Tamura, as the home side had the final word of a pulsating contest.