Contributed by: Matthew Guthrie
After kicking the first goal of the match within 1 minute of the opening of play in their Round 3 match, the Samurai never bothered the score keeper again as the Falcons showed just why they are one of the tournament favourites.
From the opening bounce it was the Samurais who took the initiative shaking off any fears that the Haka had the desired effect on them. Within a minute the Japanese had a set shot from Wakazawa (No 24) 50m out and scored truely. This appeared to sting the Falcons into action who from then on played most of the football in their forward half. A strong defensive wall was set up by the Falcons' midfield and half back line which was almost impossible for the Japanese to penetrate, with constant rebounds back into their forward 50m. The Falcons went into the first break ahead 2.3 (15) to 1.0 (6).
Some glimpses of silky skills were on display by Sakaki (12) and tenacious tackling and chasing by Tanaka (9) and the other Samurai in the second but it was their taller, more experienced opponents who tackled harder and laid on the shepards with obvious effect. The Falcons laid on 3 goals in the quarter to open up a handy 30 point break at the half.
As the Samurais came out from the break they looked like the walking wounded with bandages being displayed on a number of the players, but their spirit was high. The Falcons spent a long time in the sheds and whatever was said in there really sunk in as they came out operating like a well oiled machine. Disciplined rebounding and positional play from the midfielders lead by Congalton (9) and Stevens (19) and strong marking up forward from Roff (21), Bradley (26) and Ackermanis lookalike Bowden (11) meant that the Falcons really put the game out of reach for the Samurais. Four goals were added in the term by the Falcons and only inaccurate kicking kept the score board to a minimum. An attempt from 80m out by Tsutsumi (2) after the siren tried to inspire his side at the last change but despite his best efforts and the encouragement from the crowd not even Cyclone Tracey could have got it there.
The sun came out in the last quater but did not rise for the Samurais as each attack they attempted was repelled by the Falcons and sent back with interest. The well trained midfielders centred the ball on most occasions or sent it to the top of the square every time an attack was designed. The Falcons added another 3 goals in the quater to run out convincing winners by 71 points and looking good to finish on top at the end of the minor rounds.
New Zealand 11.11 (77)
Japan 1.0 (6)
World Footy News