The Brave Blossoms overcame little resistance from a disappointing Samoa side to put them second place in Pool B with USA to come
By Will MacPherson
Japan were in irresistable form as they claimed another scalp by downing Samoa 26-5. Japan have been a revelation in this World Cup and remain in contention to qualify for the quarter-finals, a scenario even the most optimistic Brave Blossoms fan probably didn’t think possible a month ago. They have eight points, so need to now beat USA with a bonus point and pray for favourable results elsewhere. The less said about Samoa’s performance the better…
Land of the Rising Scrum
Japan are refreshing to watch and a reminder of all the characteristics that make this great game great, with their attacking intent and desire to spread it wide. But it’s actually in the tight that they are most resilient. They have a remarkable, efficient, old-school scrum that is yet to lose its own ball this tournament and was rewarded with a penalty try for some huge performances, and pinched one off Samoa too. Japan are using the scrum the way the scrum is supposed to be used: the ball goes in, is hooked back and then comes out as soon as possible. Simples.
Benefits of a rest period
Japan looked a different team to the one that played Scotland ten days ago, just a few days after beating South Africa. They flew out of the blocks, looking refreshed, flinging it wide and harrying and haring over the park in tight and loose. They tired towards the end, as is inevitable, but their first-half performance, when they had 70% possession and 75% territory, was a triumph built on their freshness and hunger.
Milton Keynes, I’ll happily admit, is not a sentence I ever thought I’d type. But there’s little doubt the World Cup at Stadium MK has been an unmitigated triumph. There was once again a record crowd for the stadium (29,019), and many of them were decked out in the Cherry-and-White of Japan, cheering them on gallantly, whether hailing from Japan or not. Cliché perhaps, but this really is what the World Cup is all about.
It’s this simple: Samoa stank the place out. There wasn’t a single aspect of their rugby that will have pleased their coaches and the Japanese outplayed them in every department. Their discipline was poor (with two yellow cards), and they gave penalties away every which way imaginable, their handling was poor and there was little in the way of composure. A couple of vintage counter-attacks started by (and one finished by) Paul Perez in the second-half helped them avoid being nilled for the first time since 1996, but there was little else to show. It’s wonderful to see Japan play this well, but Samoa’s performance was certainly sorry and actually rather sad. The sight of Filo Paulo on one knee with his head in his hands after his 78th minutes yellow card just about said it all. What on earth was up?
Ayumu Goromaru notched 16 points, which took him past Morne Steyn and Matt Giteau into 12th on the all-time international points scorers list.
Samoa conceded a whopping 17 penalties, and five of their players gave away two.
There were 38 turnovers, with Japan pinching Samoan ball 22 times.
Top ball carrier was Tim Nanai-Williams with 87 metres carried, followed by Paul Perez on 77
Japan’s top tackler was Luke Thompson on 16, while Samoa’s Kane Thompson was on 14
Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
Man of the Match:
Samoa: Nanai-Williams; K Pisi, Perez, Leota, A Tuilagi (Lee-Lo 47); T Pisi, Fotuali’i (Afemai73); Taulafo (Afatia 61), Avei (Matu’u 55), Johnston (Perenise 50), Paulo, Thompson, Treviranus (S Tuilagi 69), Ioane (Lam 47), Levave.
Not used: Stanley.
Sin bin: Levave (15), Taulafo (18)
Japan: Goromaru; Yamada (Hesketh 55), Sau (Kizu 71), Tatekawa, Matsushima; K Ono, Tanaka (Hiwasa 71); Inagaki, Horie, Hatakeyama (Yamashita 64), Thompson, H Ono (Ives 40), Leitch, Broadhurst (Tui 64), Holani (Mafi 59)