Japan kept alive their hopes of making the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals after they dominated Samoa, winning 26-5 at Stadium MK.
The Brave Blossoms thoroughly deserved their four points as they dominated their pool rivals for large spells in an impressively calm showing.
However keen pool observers would have been perplexed to watch as Japan twice turned down chances to go for the bonus-point that could be key.
They scored two tries in total, though a penalty try and Akihito Yamada’s effort, but one couldn’t help but feel they had a big chance of four.
A record 29,019 supporters were packed into Stadium MK on Saturday but they witnessed a disappointed Samoan contingent, with only Paul Perez crossing.
Their World Cup hopes are now over after two defeats from three while Japan live to fight another day, facing USA in their final pool fixture.
Both these nations entered the match level on four points apiece, with Japan having beaten South Africa while Samoa were too good for the USA.
There was only one winner today though, as Japan outclassed the Islanders.
Of course much has been made of the rest periods given to the so-called minnows so it was refreshing to see both teams enjoying a decent break ahead of their third Rugby World Cup pool meeting – Japan last played nine days ago while Samoa came into this fixture with six days’ recovery.
Japan seemed the most fresh and thought they had scored the opening try on eight minutes when Ayumu Goromaru crossed on the left wing. However, assistant referee Wayne Barnes spotted a forward pass so the score was chalked off. Consolation for Goromaru was a penalty goal to make it 3-0.
Goromaru would, however, miss the chance to double the lead on twelve minutes from a 40-metre penalty shot following a maul offence from Samoa.
At this point it was all Japan as Samoa could not get out of their 22. Fortunately for them, crossing from the Brave Blossoms five metres out assisted in their escape but this came after Faifili Levave and Sakaria Taulafo were yellow carded for a late and mid-air tackle respectively.
Samoa were in a real hole that they didn’t look like escaping from.
Japan meanwhile simply had to make their numerical advantage count and finally earned the seven points they were after on 24 minutes when Craig Joubert gave a penalty try for Samoa collapsing the scrum. One silver lining for Samoa was that the score seemed to finally spark them to life.
Their reprieve only proved to be short-lived as back came Japan before the first half was done, with Goromaru’s penalty on 33 minutes preceding a well-taken try on the right from Yamada, who slipped a tackle before diving over. Goromaru added the gloss with the touchline extras for 20-0.
More of the same would have been the message from Eddie Jones and Japan continued their impressive form after the break, with another Goromaru three points. That kick crucially put them more than three scores in front and even with 30 minutes to play, Samoa were looking dead and buried.
But then came the strange first decision from Japan to snub an attacking line-out on 58 minutes and instead opt for three points, which came as a surprise in a pool that is set to go down to the wire next week.
In contrast the prospect of being nilled ended for Samoa on 63 minutes and it was done in some style, breaking from their own 22 before centre Perez finished strongly on the left wing. Fly-half Tusi Pisi missed the conversion from wide out so it was a 26-5 deficit with time ticking on.
Once again Japan pointed to the uprights when Samoa came off their feet and this time Goromaru was off-target, with the game, like Samoa’s last eight hopes at this Rugby World Cup, fizzling out with no change to the scoreline.
Tries: Penalty, Yamada
Cons: Goromaru 2
Pens: Goromaru 4
Yellow Cards: Levave (late tackle – 16 mins), Taulafo (tackle in the air – 19 mins), Paulo (offside – 79 mins)
- Samoa: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Jack Lam, 20 Vavae Tuilagi , 21 Vavao Afemai , 22 Mike Stanley, 23 Rey Lee-Lo
- Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Male Sau, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Kotaro Matsushima, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Justin Ives, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Karne Hesketh
- Date: Saturday, October 3
- Venue: Stadiummk, Milton Keynes
- Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
- Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
- TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
- Full Pool Previews – Click Individual Pool Below