Japan beat Scots, reach World Cup quarters
Oct. 13, 2019
Japan have produced a scintillating display of attacking rugby before holding back a spirited Scottish fightback to triumph 28-21 to reach the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Wing Kenki Fukuoka led the way with two tries, while Kotaro Matsushima and Keita Inagaki also scored on Sunday night as the hosts held off a fierce second-half assault from a team they had lost against in all seven of their previous meetings.
When Japan beat South Africa four years ago - having won only one of their previous 24 World Cup matches - it was considered the greatest shock in rugby history. This time, having already beaten Ireland three weeks ago, it did not even feel like a real surprise.
They were faster, sharper, more inventive and, roared on by the vast majority of the delirious red-clad 72,000 crowd, absolutely relentless in everything they did as they became the first tier-two team to reach the last eight since Fiji in 2007.
Having won all four of their matches to top Pool A, they will face the Springboks again in the quarter-finals and the twice-champions will be taking absolutely nothing for granted.
The result also meant that Ireland, through as runners-up, will play New Zealand.
The match was given the go-ahead only on Sunday morning after an inspection of the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis and proved a wonderfully uplifting occasion for the country after the death and destruction wrought by the storm.
Scotland were first on the board with a Finn Russell try after seven minutes but Japan hit back with a brilliantly-worked, high-tempo score that set the tone for the night.
Fukuoka tore down the left and as he was tackled to the floor, slung a one-armed pass to Matsushima to go over.
If that was good, their next was a contender for try of the tournament. Fukuoka and Matsushima again put on the afterburners before a series of off-loads and side-steps ended with Shota Horie setting up prop Inagaki.
Japan's speed and intensity soon created a third try at the end of the half when Tim Lafaele's deft grubber bounced perfectly into the arms of Fukuoka.
Then two minutes into the second half when Fukuoka stripped Chris Harris and galloped clear for a fourth and bonus-point clinching try.
The Scots, who came from 31-0 down to draw 38-38 with England in the Six Nations in March, dredged up that Twickenham spirit from somewhere as WP Nel and Zander Fagerson scored to get back within seven points with 25 minutes to go.
It was relentless Scottish pressure and desperate, at times demented, Japanese defending from then on, but the hosts held out for another famous victory in what became a deafening cauldron of noise.
It was only the second time Scotland have failed to reach the last eight - the other coming in 2011 - but they can have few complaints, bookending wins over Russia and Samoa with defeats by Ireland and the hosts.