Japan Down Brave Chile to Take World Cup Pool D Lead

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool D – Japan v Chile – Stadium Municipal de Toulouse, Toulouse, France – September 10, 2023 Japan’s Ryoto Nakamura scores their fifth try

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) – Japan ran in six converted tries as they kicked off their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 42-12 bonus point win against debutants Chile, who got two tries of their own in the searing on Sunday.

After opening the scoring through a Rodrigo Fernandez early try, the South American team, the lowest ranked at this World Cup, added another from Alfonso Escobar with Santiago Vila slotting over the conversion.

Japan made the most of Chile’s two yellow cards to prevail with a brace by Amato Fakatava and other tries from Jone Naikabula, Michael Leitch, Ryoto Nakamura and Warner Dearns, all six being converted by Rikiya Matsuda.

A rousing rendition of the national anthem was followed by a spirited start in the Pool D clash for Chile, the first World Cup debutants since Russia in 2011, and then a dream try in the sixth minute, manufactured with Latin flair and finished off with a dollop of good fortune.

Fullback Inaki Ayarza broke through two tackles to set up the opportunity, but captain Martin Sigren looked to have spoilt it when the ball was knocked out of his hand in the tackle.

It, however, went backwards and quick thinking flyhalf Fernandez pounced on the loose ball, dribbling it forward and then diving on it to dot down. A check by the Television Match Official confirmed the try to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Chilean euphoria lasted less than 120 seconds as they dropped the ball from the kickoff, allowing Japan to score as lock Fakatava showed a fleetness of foot to burst through and sprint away from the defenders for a quick reply.

Basic errors betrayed Chile’s naivete and a late tackle from Matias Dittus on fellow prop Koo Ji-won meant a 10-minute spell in the sin bin, during which time Japan went in the lead on the half-hour mark as winger Naikabula stretched over for their second try.

Sigren was also cautioned after head contact in a tackle on Kotaro Matsushima and with the numerical advantage Japan were able to maul over on the stroke of halftime as Fakatava claimed his second try and stretched the lead to 21-7.

But if it was expected the second half would signal the end of the rookies’ resistance, the opposite was true as Escobar burst over for a 48th minute try to fire up the crowd and cut Japan’s lead to nine points.

That was as good as it got for the gutsy Chileans, with Leitch scoring Japan’s fourth try in the 53rd minute, center Nakamura the next 10 minutes from time and 21-year-old Dearns used all of his 2-meter frame to stretch over and score at the end of the game.

“We struggled a little bit against the Chileans’ physicality but we executed our gameplan which was great for us,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool D – Japan v Chile – Stadium Municipal de Toulouse, Toulouse, France – September 10, 2023 Chile’s Jose Ignacio Larenas in action