Japan puts up brave fight in tough loss to All Blacks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takuya Yamasawa scores a try for Japan in the first half.

Japan put up a tough fight but was denied a first-ever win over New Zealand when the powerful All Blacks held on for a 38-31 victory in a rugby union test match before a sellout crowd at National Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.

The world No. 4 All Blacks dominated early with their speed and power to storm to a 21-3 lead, but the 10th-ranked Brave Blossoms closed the gap with tries by Takuya Yamasawa and Yutaka Nagare to go into halftime trailing 21-17, much to the appreciation of the crowd of 65,000.

The All Blacks added an early try in the second half, then kept the pressure on through the power of their forwards to keep the Japanese at bay. Japan got within four points midway through second half, but New Zealand struck back five minutes later with a try.

A late try by Kazuki Himeno helped Japan end on a positive note, although it wasn’t enough to overcome the visitors.

After the final whistle, the crowd gave the home team a rousing round of applause for its effort.