PNC - Maori swamp Japan in Second Half
A withering third quarter which produced three tries, two of them to wing Hosea Gear finally quelled some sterling Japan resistance to set up a 65-22 win for the New Zealand Maori in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup game played at Napier's McLean Park on Saturday.
NZ Maori has won four from four and will play the tournament final against Australia in Sydney next week.
It was a compelling display from the Maori who ran in 10 tries while first five-eighths Callum Bruce scored 25 points in what was the first clash between the side and Japan.
The under-rated visitors had gone to the break with a 22-17 lead but Gear drove over for a try after a concentrated forwards build-up, then moment later, after 55 minutes, he latched onto a good pass from prop Jacob Ellison after Japan fullback Shaun Webb lost the ball placing it after being tackled.
Gear switched into overdrive, sidestepped in field and raced 45m to touch down under the goal posts.
The wave then broke over the Japanese as the Maori stormed back from the re-start before replacement fullback Dwayne Sweeney scored wide out to be followed moments later by Gear touching down for his hat-trick.
In just over 20 minutes the score had ballooned to 48-22.
Japan scored first through a penalty goal after six minutes to first five-eighths James Arlidge, but then conceded two tries in four minutes as firstly wing Zar Lawrence took advantage of a solid break by halfback Piri Weepu which was well continued by lock Ross Filipo.
He bounced off defenders and fed Lawrence in for the try, then No.8 Liam Messam got away with joining from the side of a maul to steal ball and set up the chance which Bruce capitalised on to score.
Japan wasn't put off however, and struck with deadly effect when it scored two tries in three minutes.
The first came after an all in assault which resulted in a penalty five metres out from the Maori line when Weepu was ruled offside. But Japan opted for a scrum and it was fullback Bryce Robins who scored after a good thrust by replacement centre Shaun Webb.
Then from a Maori lineout throw near halfway which was not secured, Japan flanker Hare Makiri tidied up and Arlidge held the ball long enough to create space further out and that was sufficient for left win Christian Loamanu to go over in the corner. Arlidge added a superb conversion from the sideline to give Japan a 15-12 lead.
The Maori regained the lead when No.8 Liam Messam showed he knew how to create space as well after a prolonged buildup on attack. The ball was moved wide and Messam drew the defence in the centres to create just enough space for second five-eighths Tamati Ellison to go over in the corner.
But then the try of the half came just on halftime when blindside flanker Luke Thompson crossed after Webb fielded the a ball which missed touch. He fed infield and it was Robins who ran straight and hard up the centre of the field to split the defence and feed the well-placed Thompson. Arlidge's conversion gave Japan a 22-17 lead at the break.
As the Maori reserves were ushered on there appeared no let-up in the enthusiasm of the Maori and they ran rampant with the Waldrom brothers Scott and Thomas electrifying the continuity in the loose and setting up late tries for Lawrence and Bruce, each scoring their second tries of the game while a last-minute turnover resulted in a try for centre Jason Kawau.
Scorers: NZ Maori 65 (Hosea Gear 3, Zar Lawrence 2, Callum Bruce 2, Tamati Ellison, Dwayne Sweeney, Jason Kawau tries; Bruce 6 con, pen) Japan 22 (Bryce Robins, Christian Loamanu, Luke Thompson tries; James Arlidge 2 con, pen). HT: 17-22