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Māori All Blacks fall short to Japan XV

Māori All Blacks fall short to Japan XV

All BlacksJuly 7, 2024

It wasn’t quite the 'Miracle of Brighton,' but Eddie Jones was grinning widely after helping the Japan XV engineer a monumental upset of the Māori All Blacks at the City of Toyota Stadium.

Contact between the Māori All Blacks and Japan started in 2008 and until now a Japanese outfit had never beaten a New Zealand counterpart.

With a dozen minutes remaining reserve hooker Tyrone Thompson peeled off the back of a rolling maul to score a try for the Māori All Blacks to close the gap to 18-12. When Rameka Poihipi's conversion followed, it appeared the visitors were coming home with a wet sail.

Instead, substitute prop Benet Kumeroa was yellow-carded with eight minutes left which sparked the hosts. Fullback Yoshitaka Yazaki kicked a handy penalty before the Māori All Blacks infringed again. From a lineout, the Japan XV secured possession and drove 15 metres to create a unique slice of history.  

Hooker Kenji Sato emerged with the winning try. The hooker made a huge impact alongside fellow subs Tiennan Costley and Sanaila Waqa who both spent an extensive period playing in New Zealand. Costley had a hand in the Japan XV’s second try. A determined charge ended just short of the Māori All Blacks line. Shuhei Takeuchi followed the bustling flaker with a saber-like thrust through the middle of the ruck.

Like the previous Saturday, Japan XV started briskly, and bulky second-five Samisoni Tua scored the only try of the first spell with a bullying run.

Japan XV kicked intelligently, tackled vigorously, and was more accurate and imaginative on the attack. 

The Māori All Blacks led at no point of the contest struggling to adapt to the stifling heat while mangled in the scrums and lacking rhythm throughout. It was telling their first try took 44 minutes to score - a lineout drive by Kurt Eklund.

The Japan XV wasn’t vastly different from a week ago. Only two changes were made to the starting XV and there were only three changes on the bench. 

Co-Captains Mamoru Harada (hooker) and Naoto Saito (halfback) were influential. Openside Kai Yamamoto topped the tackle count for Japan XV with 12, matching the tally of Māori All Blacks captain Billy Harmon and lock Isaia Walker-Leawere.

Blindside Cameron Suafoa, Thompson, and second-five Quinn Tupaea tried hard to inspire the Māori All Blacks. It wasn’t to be.

Māori All Blacks: 14 (Kurt Eklund, Tyrone Thompson tries; Rameka Poihipi 2 con) Japan XV: 26 (Samisoni Tua, Shuhei Takeuchi, Kenji Sato tries; Takuya Yamasawa 2 pen, con, Yoshitaka Yazaki pen)

Te Mutunga. Ngā mihi @JRFURugby, thank you for a tough match.

Mā te wā#MāoriAllBlacks pic.twitter.com/Ezifwg8I7d

— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 6, 2024

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