New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the All Blacks had dragged their Rugby World Cup campaign back on track after their ruthless 83-7 demolition of Japan.
The former schoolmaster gave his injury-affected side eight marks out of 10 for the thirteen-try display and said the hosts were vastly improved from last week’s nervy opening win against Tonga.
“I think we were better than last week, which was pleasing,” said Henry.
“We improved our structure and we had players in the right positions most of the time. We didn’t try to push the game too much… I thought we put our game together better than we did last week.”
The All Blacks were missing the backbone of their team - captain Richie McCaw, number eight Kieran Read, fly-half Dan Carter and full-back Mils Muliaina, all through injury - but did not skip a beat at Waikato Stadium.
Conrad Smith kicked off the rout in just the fourth minute as 11 different scorers crossed for tries and stand-in fly-half Colin Slade recovered from an early wobble to kick nine conversions.
Substitute Sonny Bill Williams scored his first two All Blacks tries in his maiden outing on the right wing, while Richard Kahui also claimed a double from the other flank.
Henry said the overall performance was “pleasing” as New Zealand head into next week’s clash with France, their nemesis in two previous World Cups.
“We’re probably where we need to be,” Henry said.
“Obviously there’s a few guys who need a run because they couldn’t play today. That’s a bit of a concern but you can’t control those things. It’s just the reality of the situation.
“We just want to get better each game and I think we got better.”
Last week’s 45-10 win - when Tonga frustrated the All Blacks on the tournament’s opening night - was poorly received by a wary New Zealand public acutely aware of past failures on the sport’s biggest stage.
However, New Zealand’s performance was by far the heaviest defeat inflicted in the 2011 tournament which has so far been notable for the giant strides smaller teams have made to catch up with the established nations.
“The big thing for us was to improve ... to really get the structure of our game right,” said All Blacks stand-in skipper Keven Mealamu.
“But we have still got a few things that we can work away at. Next week (against France) will be another big step up for us.”
New Zealand’s biggest ever World Cup win was the 145-17 thumping of Japan in 1995, while the Brave Blossoms have now conceded 50 points or more in nine World Cup games.
“In the first half we missed 13 tackles. When you play the All Blacks, if you miss one tackle it can cost you the game,” said Japan coach John Kirwan.
“I think it was a good lesson for us. We had some positives through the evening and our World Cup starts now.”
The All Blacks now face a stiffer test against France next Saturday while Japan will revert to their strongest line-up for their must-win game against Tonga on Wednesday.