Italy claimed their first victory of the year when they beat Japan 25-22 in their June international at the Noevir Stadium in Kobe on Saturday.
The Azzurri dominated the early stages before Japan fought back in the second-half and both sides eventually scored three tries apiece. The result also means that Italy draw their two-Test series with the Brave Blossoms.
Japan were on the back-foot from the outset and suffered a setback as early as the fourth minute when Samuela Anise was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous challenge on Leonardo Ghiraldini.
Italy could not benefit from their numerical advantage, however, and we had to wait until the 19th minute for the opening points when Tommaso Benvenuti crossed for a deserved try after Jayden Hayward and Sebastian Negri did well in the build-up.
Tommaso Allan slotted the conversion which handed his side a 7-0 lead and Benvenuti’s try gave the Azzurriplenty of confidence as they continued to hold the upper-hand as the half progressed.
And their dominance saw them increase their lead in the 26th minute when Ghiraldini crashed over from the back of a line-out drive deep inside Japan’s half.
Italy finished the half strongly but they would not trouble the scoreboard again during this period although Yu Tamura opened Japan’s account courtesy of a penalty in the 34th minute which meant the visitors led 12-3 at half-time.
The Azzurri were fastest out of the blocks in the second-half and in the 44th minute Jake Polledri broke through a tackle before dotting down under the posts before Allan added the extras which gave the visitors a 16-point lead.
The next 15 minutes was a tight affair although neither side scored points during this period but Japan struck back on the hour-mark when Will Tupou crossed the whitewash after the ball went through several pairs of hands in the build-up.
And three minutes later, Amanaki Mafi burst through a tackle before crossing for his side’s second try – Rikiya Matsuda converted both tries which meant Italy were holding a slender 19-17 lead now.
The Azzurri did not panic though and two penalties from Allan gave them a 25-17 lead before Japan struck back with a Kotaru Matsushima try in the game’s closing stages but it was not enough to secure them a come-from-behind win.
Tries: Tupou, Mafi, Matsushima
Cons: Matsuda 2
Yellow Card: Anise
Tries: Benvenuti, Ghiraldini, Polledri
Cons: Allan 2
Pens: Allan 2
Japan: 15 Kotaru Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Michael Leitch (c), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Wimpie Van Der Walt, 3 Ji-Won Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Amanaki Mafi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Giulio Bisegni
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Nic Berry (Australia)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)