COLWYN BAY, WALES – Japan picked up the first win of its European tour — and its first under stand-in coach Scott Wisemantel — when it routed Russia 40-13 at Parc Eirias on Friday.
Japan scored one try in the first stanza and four in the second as its fitness and willingness to run the ball was finally rewarded, much to the delight of a small but knowledgeable crowd.
“The first half was less than ordinary,” said Wisemantel. “But we rectified things in the second half. You can focus on the negative, which was the first half. But the positive was we didn’t panic and continued to play our game. We executed our game plan very well in the second half and showed enormous courage when we could have become very conservative.”
The Brave Blossoms dominated territory and possession for the first 10 minutes, but an early penalty from Ayumu Goromaru was their only reward and they soon found themselves behind.
A dropped ball — an all-too familiar sight on this tour — was kicked ahead by the Russians and Vladimir Ostroushko used his pace to get to the ball first and touch down behind the sticks. Ramil Gayshin added the extras as Russia led 7-3 completely against the run of play.
The lead didn’t last long though as a good break by Goromaru in the 15th minute was finished off by a 15-meter driving maul from the pack that saw Hendrik Tui touch down, with Goromaru converting.
Silly mistakes by Japan, however, handed Gayshin two kickable penalties and the Russia fullback duly obliged to make it 13-10, before Goromaru leveled things up with a shot of his own in the 28th minute.
With center Male Sa’u becoming more prominent, Japan went close on a number of occasions, only to be denied by some desperate Russian defense and some poor handling from the Brave Blossoms, as the teams went into the break all square at 13-13.
The second half was a far better effort from Japan.
Michael Broadhurst crossed in the 42nd minute as Japan at last kept hold of the ball in contact, before the Brave Blossoms finally seized control of the game.