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Van der Merwe's heroics silence the Twickenham masses

A try for the ages lights up a thrilling opening weekend of Six Nations rugby as Scotland, Ireland and France register away wins

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Retallick red-carded as Japan give All Blacks an almighty scare

By AAP
(Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

New Zealand have kicked off their end-of-year tour with a 38-31 victory over Japan but the makeshift All Blacks were given an almighty scare in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

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The visitors played the last 14 minutes a man down after lock Brodie Retallick was sent off for a dangerous clearout but just held on for victory despite a late try from outstanding Brave Blossoms flanker Kazuki Himeno.

A three-try blitz had put New Zealand 21-3 ahead after 32 minutes but Japan, who have never beaten the All Blacks, struck back with two of their own to cut the deficit to four points at halftime.

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Hulking winger Caleb Clarke bulldozed his way through soon after the break to restore New Zealand’s lead but Japan lock Warner Dearns slashed it back by charging down a Finlay Christie box kick and regathering to score.

All Blacks No8 Hoskins Sotutu barged his way across the line on the hour mark and that proved enough of a cushion even after Retallick was shown a red card in his 99th Test.

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Japan, who tackled everything that moved and attacked with every scrap of possession they earned, might take consolation from by far the lowest margin of defeat in their five official Tests against the three-time world champions.

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The All Blacks will continue their northern hemisphere tour with matches against Wales, Scotland and England over the next three weeks, while Japan play the English at Twickenham and France in Toulouse next month.

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