MOSCOW – Japan’s men suffered their second straight Pool B defeat at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow on Saturday, losing 33-0 to South Africa and falling out of contention for the championship.
Only the six pool winners and the two best runners-up qualify for the second-round competition to decide the tournament champion. Japan lost 19-17 to Scotland in their opening match on Friday.
South Africa and Scotland each have two wins, while Japan and host Russia are winless and neither can finish any higher than third. Japan and Russia will square off later in the day.
South Africa led 14-0 at the break behind two tries by Philip Snyman, both of which were converted by Branco du Preez. Seabolo Senatia came on in the second half and picked up a pair of tries. Cheslin Kolbe scored one try and kicked two conversions.
“The barrier separating us from them (the eight strongest teams) is not that huge,” said Japan’s Yusaku Kuwazuru. “We need to improve just a little bit, but that little bit is a big thing.”
Against Scotland, Japan trailed 12-0 at the half and 19-0 just a minute into the second half before Lote Tuqiri scored a try for Japan, and Katsuyuki Sakai converted as Japan made it 19-7.
Shota Emi came off the bench four minutes later and, two seconds after setting foot on the pitch, scored a second try for Japan, though he failed to convert it. Kosuke Hashino’s try after the hooter gave Japan a chance for a draw. Sakai, however, was unable to convert, allowing the Scots to walk off winners.
In the women’s tournament, Japan lost its opening Pool D match to Russia 14-10 before suffering a crushing 39-0 defeat to England.
Yoko Suzuki scored both of Japan’s tries against Russia.
Australia evens series with comeback
Adam Ashley-Cooper dived over for a late try and Christian Leali’ifano converted as Australia leveled the series with a 16-15 come-from-behind victory over the British and Irish Lions in a second test that went down to stoppage time on Saturday night.
After a kicking duel in the first 75 minutes of a match marred by handling errors and scrum penalties, Wallabies flyhalf James O’Connor gave Ashley-Cooper a flat ball close to the line and the veteran center crashed over to send the series to a deciding match in Sydney.
Leali’ifano, playing his second test, landed the conversion from wide on the right side to give Australia the lead for the first time in the half, setting up a tense last three miutes.
In another dramatic finish, the Lions had another chance to secure their first series win since 1997, but usually radar-like Leigh Halfpenny missed a penalty shot from halfway in stoppage time.
It was a 180-degree finish to the series-opener in Brisbane last week, when the Lions won 23-21 after Australia’s Kurtley Beale missed a penalty as the fulltime siren sounded.
“We certainly made it hard on ourselves at times, but it saves the series for Sydney,” Wallabies skipper James Horwill said. “We didn’t get a lot of rhythm on the ball tonight, and it’s something we need to get better at.”
Lions captain Sam Warburton said it was a bitter setback.
“Credit to Australia. They pushed us all the way to the end and got the try,” he said. “It was a great game to be involved in, just disappointing for us at the end.
“The series is still up for grabs.”
Halfpenny kicked all of the Lions points via five penalty goals, but his two rare misses from the tee were costly for the Lions. In a contest eerily similar to the 2001 series, the Lions won the first test and led at halftime in the second test in Melbourne. The Australians won the third test in Sydney 12 years ago to complete their first triumph over the Lions in a test series.
After stadium record crowds in Brisbane and Melbourne, the series is set for another epic decider next Saturday at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
Lions coach Warren Gatland correctly predicted referee Craig Joubert would have “zero tolerance” at the scrum in Melbourne, with Lions prop Mako Vunipola penalized twice in the first half for collapsing and the Australian props each penalized for the same infringement before the break.
The Lions were dominant at the breakdown early, turning over Australian ruck ball three times in the opening 11 minutes and winning penalties from driving mauls.
Both teams tried to be adventurous at times, with the Lions trying an 11-man lineout near the Australian line and twice winning penalties from the Australians collapsing rolling mauls before Halfpenny kicked his first goal in the 10th minute.
The Wallabies twice tried running the ball from their own tryline before resorting to clearing kicks. But the ball rarely reached the wings until the Wallabies started spreading it more relentlessly in the last half hour.
Leali’ifano, who only lasted 52 seconds in his test debut before being carried off with a head injury in the opening match, scored his first points in international rugby in the 16th minute. He added two more goals in a duel with Halfpenny, who landed a penalty right on half time to give the Lions a 12-9 lead at the break.