Japan Passes Hard Test from Scrappy Tonga
11:15 JST, July 31, 2023
TOKYO (Reuters) — Japan saw off a spirited Tongan side with a 21-16 Pacific Nations Cup victory at Hanazono Rugby Stadium near Osaka on Saturday that got its World Cup preparations back on track following a tight loss to Samoa last weekend.
Tries from Jone Naikabula and debutant Amato Fakatava in the first half and one from Semisi Masiwera in the second kept Japan in front for most of the game, but Tonga scored two tries of its own and was pressing for another until the end.
Winger Naikabula opened Japan’s account off an attacking scrum but just three minutes later a smart pickup by Tongan blindside Vaea Fifita around a weakly defended ruck set up scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua to run one in for the visiting side.
The back and forth continued throughout, punctuated by a series of handling errors on both sides which left little room to build phases and pressure.
With less than two minutes until the final whistle, Japan led by just five when an interception by Tonga outside center Afusipa Taumoepeau almost resulted in a try that would have leveled up the scores.
A last ditch try-saving tackle by replacement fullback Kotaro Matsushima, however, saved Japan and the host side held on to secure the victory.
Japan lacked the flair that characterized its 2019 World Cup performances, and it appeared to feel the absence of loose forward Michael Leitch, who was banned for a red card offence during last week’s loss to Samoa.
The win moved Japan to second place in the Pacific Nations Cup standings behind Fiji, which it meets in the final round next week.
"SPORTS" POPULAR ARTICLE
Hanshin Tigers Win Japan Series for First Time in 38 Years, Beating Orix Buffaloes in Game 7
Japanese Skater Yuzuru Hanyu Announces Divorce
Shohei Ohtani to Donate Gloves to 20,000 Elementary Schools
Sumo in Crisis as Dwindling Number of Wrestlers Forces Body to Knock Over Tradition
Shohei Ohtani, Baseball’s 2-Way Star, Becomes First 2-Time Unanimous MVP (UPDATE 1)
JN ACCESS RANKING
- Japan, Vietnam Trade Ministers Discuss Supply Chains, IPEF
- BOJ Ueda: Japan Increasingly Likely to Hit Inflation Target
- Stimulus Package Set to Drive Greater Govt Borrowing; Likely Effectiveness Called into Question
- Japan 2023 Food Exports Reach 1 Tril. Yen at Record Pace