By RICH FREEMAN
Japan produced a far better performance than its last outing at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya but still lost 66-15 to Australia A on Sunday.
Returning to the ground where, two weeks ago, it had been upset 43-34 by Russia, the initial signs did not look at all good for the Cherry Blossoms, who were beaten 63-5 in Osaka on Thursday.
A poor clearance kick and woeful following up in the opening 30 seconds saw Queensland Reds winger Peter Hynes run 40 meters for a try converted by Reds fullback Julian Huxley.
Although Tori Kurihara got Japan on the scoreboard in the third minute with a penalty, Japan’s weak tackling allowed Australia to score five more tries before the halftime break.
However, the home team did show considerable improvement in certain aspects of its game — the line-outs and scrums in particular — and should have scored on at least three occasions as its high pace game forced the Australians onto the back foot. However, poor decision making or a lack of confidence resulted in the opportunities being spurned.
“The Japanese seemed to have more experience and direction than the side that played on Thursday,” said Australia captain Matt Cockbain after the game.
Australian head coach Adrian Thompson praised his team, saying it was a much better performance than the previous game, particularly given the hot and muggy conditions, but added that his side had been frustrated at the Japanese players inability to stay on their feet and their spoiling tactics.
After trailing 3-42 at half-time, Japan scored two tries in the second half through Daisuke Ohata and Kurihara, only for the Australians to score three late tries as Japan’s defense fell apart with players persisting in trying to tackle their opponents around the chests or missing tackles altogether.
Although it was the seventh defeat for Japan this year against one win, there are signs that the team is responding to the influence of new technical coaches Mark Ella and Mark Bell, and a win against archrival South Korea in Osaka on Sunday would give the squad a much needed confidence booster.
With England A due in July and the World Cup just four months away it needs it.
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