LONDON – Japan finished off its European tour and 2013 international season on a winning note Saturday, downing Spain 40-7 at Madrid Ciudad Universitaria Stadium.
The Brave Blossoms produced a gutsy display in the face of combative opposition intent on slowing the ball down at every opportunity. Leading just 15-7 at the break, Japan scored four unanswered second-half tries to finish the year with nine wins against five losses.
Michael Broadhurst crossed twice and there were further five-pointers for Shota Horie and Toshiaki Hirose, with Ayumu Goromaru finishing the day with 20 points courtesy of six penalties and a conversion.
“It was a good experience for them,” stand-in coach Scott Wisemantel said. “They showed a lot of maturity taking the three points when they were offered and then playing when allowed quick ball.”
Goromaru got Japan on the scoreboard as early as the second minute and he added further penalties in the sixth, 10th and 23rd minutes as Japan got off to the best possible start.
But not for the first time on the tour, the Japan forwards struggled with the officials’ interpretation of the laws, and with Uruguayan referee Joaquin Montes struggling to impose himself, things at times came very close to boiling over.
Luke Thompson’s sin-binning in the 32nd minute allowed the hosts to get back in the game through a try by Cesar Sempere, converted by Mariano Garcia, but Goromaru knocked over a fifth penalty two minutes before the break as Japan ensured it finished the half stronger.
The second stanza was all Japan, even though it started the half with another card when Hisateru Hirashima was sent to the sin bin in the 43rd minute.
But rather than drop their heads, the Brave Blossoms bounced back in the best possible fashion with Horie going over three minutes later.
Goromaru added a sixth penalty in the 54th minute before Broadhurst was rewarded for his sterling efforts in the autumn tests with a brace of tries as Spain found itself down to 13 men. Hirose rounded off the scoring with a try in the 69th minute following a great scrum by the pack as Japan not only wrapped up the game and year in style but also prevented its opponent from adding to its first-half score.
Jones out of hospital
Japan head coach Eddie Jones has been released from the hospital nearly 40 days after suffering a stroke while preparing his squad for its clash with the All Blacks. The 53-year-old Australian, a former Brumbies and Wallabies coach, left the Tokyo hospital on Saturday, the Japan Rugby Football Union said in a statement.
Jones is due to hold a news conference on Friday to explain his condition, look back on the past year and outline his plans for 2014, the union said.
He had been treated at the hospital since Oct. 15 when he returned home from an inspection of the Japanese national team’s domestic training camp ahead of its match with world champion New Zealand.
He was moved from an intensive care unit to a general ward on Oct. 18.
Jones missed the Brave Blossoms’ 54-6 defeat by a young All Blacks side on Nov. 2 as well as their three-Test European tour which ended on a winning note on Saturday.