Auckland: New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the All Blacks had dragged their World Cup campaign back on track yesterday after their ruthless 83-7 demolition of Japan.
The former schoolmaster gave his injury-affected side eight out of ten for the 13-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 in the 13th game of this year's competition, as 11 different players scored tries.
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.
Henry is under vast pressure to deliver New Zealand's first World Cup in 24 years after presiding over the disaster of 2007, when the All Blacks were shocked in the quarter-finals by France.
Skipper Keven Mealamu admitted the performance was a relief.
"The big thing for us was to improve, to really get the structure of our game right," he said. "We have a few things that we can work away at. Next week [against France] will be another big step up for us."
New Zealand were on the board with their first attack when Ma'a Nonu and Isaia Toeava set up Conrad Smith for a score wide left, in an ominous start to a half which yielded six tries by six different players in black.
Richard Kahui ran in the second 12 minutes later, Jerome Kaino went over from a ruck and stand-in captain Mealamu swatted away a defender on the line before Andy Ellis and Colin Slade scored within a minute of each other.
Beating defenders at will
Nonu was striding through the Japan defenders at will, while the Brave Blossoms wilted each time they had the ball and went into the break 38-0 down after spending less than five minutes in their opponents' half.
The scoreboard was static for only five second-half minutes when Kahui got his second before rugby league-cum-boxing star Sonny Bill Williams, introduced for winger Cory Jane, strode over for his first All Blacks try.
Toeava went over before fly-half Slade dished up the ball in a tackle to Japan veteran Hirotoki Onozawa for an intercept try which made him only the 15th player to score in three World Cups.
Slade, Nonu, Andrew Hore and Adam Thomson were also in on the action and Williams got a second before referee Nigel Owens ended the torture for Japan, who had impressed with a brave performance against France in their first game.
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.
The All Blacks now face France next while Japan play Tonga in a must-win game on Wednesday.