TOYOTA, AICHI PREF. – Japan failed to avenge its only loss from last year’s Rugby World Cup as the Brave Blossoms fell 26-13 to Scotland on Saturday night.
On a hot, muggy night at Toyota Stadium, the Scots proved too big and strong and made the most of some poor Japanese discipline to ensure they remained undefeated in full test matches between the two countries.
The last time Japan played Scotland, the Brave Blossoms could have used — though the team didn’t — a quick turnaround as the reason for defeat, the game coming just four days after Eddie Jones’ team had beaten South Africa.
This time around there could be no excuse, even if Japan, led by interim coach Mark Hammett, was missing a number of players through injury.
The first half was very much a case of Japanese flair being wasted by indiscipline.
The Brave Blossoms scored a superb try but their inability to deal with the power of the Scots at the breakdown and set piece saw them give away a number of penalties and finish the half with two players in the sin bin.
With Greig Laidlaw the opposition kicker, that could only mean one thing.
Kaito Shigeno, Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Harumichi Tatekawa combined to put Shota Horie away, as Japan caught the Scots napping following a quick penalty in the eighth minute, with Yu Tamura adding the conversion and a long-range penalty.
But Laidlaw kept the Scots in the game with three penalties before the hosts were reduced to 13 men in the space of three minutes.
Hendrik Tui was sent to the naughty chair for illegal entry at a ruck before Rikiya Matsuda saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on that also resulted in referee Ben O’Keeffe awarding the visitors a penalty try.
Laidlaw banged over the extras as the Scots went into the break leading 16-10.
With 13 men on the field, Japan needed to start the second half well.
But the Scots crossed within two minutes of the restart through WP Nel and it was to Japan’s credit it didn’t fold and continued to make a game of it.
Following an exchange of penalties between Tamura and Laidlaw, the Brave Blossoms pressed hard and dominated the closing minutes.
But they were unable to hold onto the ball at crucial times as the Scots defended well, cleared their lines and held on for the win.
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