Japan was outclassed by the French Barbarians 51-18 on Sunday, but coach Eddie Jones was pleased with the effort level from his XV this time.
Jones ripped his team after Japan lost by a smaller margin of 40-21 on Wednesday, questioning their heart and their desire to play for the Brave Blossoms.
The former Wallabies boss made wholesale changes to the side as promised, dropping 12 players and turning to the core from the Pacific Nations Cup.
While Jones was not thrilled by the result, he was happy with the fighting spirit of the Asian champions, tipping his hat to the Barbarians who were determined to send off retiring hooker William Servat and prop Lionel Faure on a winning note.
Fly-half Pierre Bernard led the way with a try, three penalties and four conversions. Ayumu Goromaru and Sho Takenaka each had a try for Japan.
“Look, sometimes you get beaten by a better team,” Jones said. “They played very well today. The fundamentals of their game is sound, their set piece was excellent. Most of the points they scored came from our turnover of the ball.
“The great thing for us today is, we were playing against a superior team but we actually got ourselves in position to win the game. But unfortunately, we made some easy mistakes.
“I’m really proud of the boys today. They competed as hard as they could. It’s the reality of where we’re at. We know where we have to go.”
Japan had the first scoring opportunity in the third minute but Goromaru fired wide left from a penalty.
The Barbarians missed a couple of early chances from the set piece themselves, but Bernard put them up 3-0 on the quarter-hour with a stroke of his right foot.
Center Hugo Bonneval came up with the first French try in the 25th minute, capitalizing on a handling error by World Cup scrum-half Atsushi Hiwasa.
After Romain Teulet converted to carve out a 10-0 lead, Goromaru gave Japan its first points with a 28th-minute penalty, only to see the Barbarians go up 17-3 three minutes later.
Takenaka, the 19-year-old wing from Tsukuba University, finally gave the home fans something to cheer about in injury time when he sprinted off for 80 meters to score Japan’s first try.
The hosts wasted no time trying to bridge the gap after halftime, Goromaru’s second penalty making it a 17-11 game three minutes into the second half.
But from the 50th minute, Bernard single-handedly scored 13 points in a space of just six minutes before Japan finally responded with a five-pointer by Broadhurst, followed by the conversion from Goromaru.
Yet it was the last time Japan registered on the scoreboard as the Barbarians rattled off 21 unanswered points before the final whistle.
Sunday’s game marked the end of a hectic spring for Jones, who only took over in April but guided Japan through the two matches versus the Barbarians, the PNC and the Asian Five Nations.
“This year, what we wanted to do was develop a style of play that can give us a competitive edge in the future,” he said. “Today we got blown out by a better team.
“Scotland beat Australia 9-6, Samoa beat us 27-26 and Scotland beat Samoa by one point yesterday. But we don’t have the consistency in our game to play at that level all the time.”
“There are certain things that are going to take time. You’re not going to go to international levels in strength and conditioning in just eight weeks,” he continued.
“The game we want to play is a high-skill game, and it’s a game that’s going to take time to develop. If you don’t take into consideration the results, I’m happy with where we are.
“But obviously, I’m not happy with the results.”