INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – Japan moved within one win of an automatic spot at next year’s Rugby World Cup with a 62-5 drubbing of South Korea on Saturday.
The victory — which saw Ayumu Goromaru surpass Keiji Hirose as Japan’s all-time top points scorer — sees the Brave Blossoms head the Asian 5 Nations standings, and sets up an enticing encounter next week in Tokyo with Hong Kong, which is second on points difference.
The winner automatically represents Asia at the World Cup, while the losers will take on Uruguay in the first round of the repechage.
“We set ourselves the target of winning the game in the first 20 minutes and we did that,” Japan coach Eddie Jones said after the game at Munhak Stadium. “I am completely happy with the result but I am not happy with the way we played in the second half.”
The tackle stats tell the story of the game, with the hosts making 53 to Japan’s 17 as the Brave Blossoms led 34-0 at halftime. By the time referee Tobi Lothian blew the final whistle, however, they had almost balanced out at 88 to 84.
“The concentration levels of the team and individuals dropped,” said Jones. “Our decision making wasn’t great and individuals were making simple mistakes at the end. Unfortunately they are habits they pick up playing Japanese rugby and we are working on getting rid of them.”
Akihito Yamada touched down four times, while Goromaru added seven conversions and a penalty to take him to 426 points from 36 tests, passing Hirose who scored 422 from 40 games.
“It’s a fantastic achievement,” Jones said of his fullback’s milestone. “Hirose was a world-class kicker so for Goro to beat him is fantastic.”
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