Culhane leads assault on record books

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The Independent Online
New Zealand 145

Japan 17

Simon Culhane led the record-breaking spree as the All Blacks set new marks in virtually every department as they demolished a hapless Japan at the Free State Stadium here yesterday.

Their World Cup Pool C encounter turned into a total rout as the mean machine ran in 21 tries. That was just one of the records. Others included the biggest international victory, Culhane's 20 conversions and the six tries bagged by the centre, Marc Ellis.

Culhane marked his debut with a near-impeccable display of place kicking, as well as weighing in with a try. Yet the sobering fact is that he, along with at least another eight of this side, will have to wait and see if they have done enough to win places in the team for next Saturday's quarter- final against Scotland. That is a measure of the strength of this Kiwi squad. Their new ranking as the tournament's favourites is wholly justified. They were awesome.

"There were a number of our so-called second choice players out there, and when this opportunity came along they were determined to make all their hard work pay off," Laurie Mains, the coach, said.

"I guess they performed at a higher level than we expected them to. We never let Japan get their game going. Basically we shut them out of the match."

They certainly did that for virtually the entire mis-match this quickly became.

Japan had faced up boldly when Norm Hewitt led the haka, but once the real action started it took the All Blacks just 85 seconds to get the scoreboard moving and give a hint of what was to come.

The wing, Eric Rush, who ended up with a hat-trick of tries, broke through four tackles to go over, Culhane starting an impressive display of goal- kicking that ended with just one miss from 21 opportunities. From the moment Rush burst through it turned into little more than a procession as the Japanese simply could not handle the power, pace and precision of a team who have hit peak form at the perfect time.

They were merciless, super-efficient and clinical. At times it looked as if they were at a training session as they tore huge holes in a defence that could never withstand such a battering. It was men against boys.

And along the way the men just kept on clocking up those new landmarks.

It was not satisfying to see a side put through the mincer in this manner, and just how Japan react to this humiliation will be vital. They had displayed adventure and enterprise while going down to Ireland and Wales.

But virtually starved of prime possession by the Blacks' pack there was little they could do but try to put a finger in the dike. But they even failed to do that and were left looking totally shell-shocked.

For the All Blacks their march towards another final, and recapturing the trophy they won in 1987, looks a reasonable bet.

NEW ZEALAND: G Osborne (North Harbour); J Wilson, M Ellis (both Otago), A Ieremia (Wellington), E Rush (North Harbour); S Culhane (Southland), A Strachan (North Harbour); C Dowd (Auckland), N Hewitt (Southland), R Loe (Canterbury), R Brooke (Auckland), B Larsen, K Schuler (both North Harbour), S Brooke (Auckland), P Henderson (Southland, capt). Replacement: J Joseph (Otago) for B Larsen, 17.

JAPAN: T Matsuda (Toshiba Fuchu); L Oto (Daito Bunka Univ), A Yoshida, Y Motoki (both Kobe Steel), Y Yoshida (Isetan); K Hirose (Kyoto Sanyo Univ), W Murata (Toshiba Fuchu); M Kunda (Toshiba Fuchu, capt), K Takahashi (Toyota), Y Sakuraba (Nippon Steel), B Ferguson (Hino Motor), H Kajihara (Katsunuma), Sinali Latu (Sanyo), K Izawa (Daito Bunka Univ), O Ota (NEC). Replacement: T Akatsuka (Meiji Univ) for Sinali Latu, 56.

Referee: G Gadjovich (Canada).

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