Youth and experience combined to hand Japan a record seventh straight test-match win Friday as the Brave Blossoms beat Samoa 33-14 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
The youthful exuberance came in the form of Yoshikazu Fujita, who grabbed a first-half brace of tries, and Kotaro Matsushima, who scored a superb individual effort in the second stanza, as Japan showed just what it can do with ball in hand.
But the two youngsters would be the first to thank their elders in the forwards for laying the foundations of the win.
Captain Michael Leitch had a storming game, while veteran Hitoshi Ono celebrated becoming Japan’s most capped player with another superb performance in the engine room.
“He showed he has still got a lot of good rugby in him,” Japan coach Eddie Jones said of the 36-year-old Ono. “He’s a great player and I am sure he will be the first Japanese player to win 100 caps. And hopefully he will do that in the quarterfinal of a World Cup.”
Japan’s dominance up front was such that it still held the Samoans scoreless after Luke Thompson was rather harshly sent to the sin bin just three minutes after coming on in the 49th minute.
“I’ve got a happy defense coach right now,” Jones said of Leigh Jones, who only joined the Japan camp on Monday, after leaving his role as head coach of Hong Kong.
Japan missed just three tackles all night, one of which led to Samoa’s second try. And the visitors’ first try was handed to them on a plate following an early breakdown in communication, a point picked up on by Samoa coach Stephen Betham.
“They (Japan) played really well as a unit,” Betham said. “There was consistency from the start and to the final whistle they worked together. Full credit to Japanese rugby. You could really see the improvement and the big strides they have made in the last two years.”