Japan comfortably beat South Korea 66-10 in the 4th round of the Asian Rugby Championships in Fukuoka, and stamped their authority on the tournament for 2015.
Japan was keen to start the match at pace, having been relatively slow to get going against both Korea and Hong Kong in their previous matches. This time, there was no lack of sharpness; Korea was on the back-foot from the very start of the match. Japan dominated the game, ran in ten tries, and converted eight.
It was pleasing to see the return of Japan’s speedy winger, Kenki Fukuoka, who scored a hat-trick of tries on his return to test rugby; along with two for Karne Hesketh, and then tries for Ryo Koliniasi, Luke Thompson, Harumichi Tatekawa, Kesuke Hatakeyama and Ayuma Goromaru, who also converted eight of the tries. By half time, Japan was 31-7 ahead, and maintained their relentless pace throughout the game by good tactical substitutions, and overall improved match fitness.
Korea scored an intercept try in the first half, thorough the impressive Bin Jegal, playing at centre instead of full back this week.
Korea had made eight changes, plus significant positional changes in the make-up of their team. The match was used to blood new players and rest others ahead of the crucial match versus Hong Kong next week. Japan had also made changes, to strengthen their pack, and welcome the return of Kenki Fukuoka, plus accommodate players on Sevens duty in Glasgow.
The result was very satisfactory for Japan. They are progressively building for the Rugby World Cup. Each match improves their readiness, and at the weekend looked much sharper. In two weeks time, Japan will further hone their skills when they play Hong Kong to conclude the Championship. Next week, in Round 5, Korea plays Hong Kong, in the battle for second place.
It was busy weekend for Japan rugby. Japan’s women, the Sakura XV, pulled off a deserved win over Kazakhstan 27-12 in Asia Women’s Rugby Championship, a curtain-raiser to the men’s match. And in Glasgow, the Japan Sevens team, playing in the 8th Round of the HSBC World Sevens, lost all their matches bar a creditable 12-12 draw against Argentina in the pool match.
The Glasgow Sevens saw Fiji beat New Zealand in the final, 24-17 to win their fourth Sevens tournament this season, and move to the top of the standings on 147points, ahead of South Africa on 142; New Zealand on 139 and England on 117. The final round is played this weekend at Twickenham. Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand, having already qualified for Rio, will contest for both tournament and circuit honours; but England will hope to secure that magical fourth place, ahead of Australia, to secure automatic Rio qualification, as well provide the home crowd a victory to cheer.
Grahame Carder is a sports enthusiast and former player from representative Schoolboy level, through University and most corners where he’s lived. Currently works as Consultant on Strategy and Marketing.