Japan recorded its first official test-match win against a Tier One nation Saturday, when it defeated Wales 23-8 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
But it was the defensive effort of the hosts that really won them the game — albeit against a team missing 15 players away with the British and Irish Lions in Australia.
Tries by Craig Wing and Michael Broadhurst and the superb right boot of Ayumu Goromaru, who added three penalties and two conversions saw Japan home on a steaming hot day in front of a full house in the nation’s capital.
“I am really proud of the players,” said Japan coach Eddie Jones right after the game. “It was fantastic to see 25,000 here watching a Japanese style of rugby.”
The first half saw Wales dominate territory and possession early on. Playing with a lot more structure than last week, the Welsh forwards dominated the breakdown and tight, and their speed off the defensive line also caused problems for Japan on the few occasions the Brave Blossoms could get their hands on the ball.
The Japan defensive line, however, held firm and, more importantly, showed it had learned its lesson from last week when it failed to capitalize on its opportunities.
In the 13th minute, Japan ventured into the Welsh 22 for the first time, and came away with three points through the boot of Goromaru after Wales was penalized for the breakdown.
Wales responded with a penalty of their own from Dan Biggar, before Goromaru brought the house down with a penalty from 48 meters out in the 34th minute as Japan led 6-3 at the break.
The second half started as the first, with Wales dominating and this time it was able to get some reward, with Tom Prydie crossing in the 44th minute following some good interplay between Rhys Patchell and Biggar.
Japan responded in the best possible way when the forwards and backs put together a number of phases before Craig Wing powered over for his first try for his adopted country. Goromaru added the extras as Japan led 13-8.
The Welsh were looking tired in the heat, and a good break by Wing and some quick recycled ball saw Broadhurst cross in the 58th minute.