Japan 30-10 Russia: Hosts win opening match at Rugby World Cup

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2019 Rugby World Cup: Japan v Russia
Japan: (12) 30
Tries: Matsushima 3, Labuschagne; Pens: Tamura 2 Cons: Tamura, Matsuda
Russia: (7) 10
Tries: Golosnitsky Pens: Kushnarev Cons: Kushnarev

Wing Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick as hosts Japan got their World Cup campaign under way with a 30-10 victory against Russia.

Russia took an early lead through wing Kirill Golosnitskiy, but Matsushima replied for the hosts.

He grabbed his second to put Japan ahead just before half-time and Pieter Labuschagne broke away to add another after the break.

Matsushima then ran through to claim a four-try bonus point for his side.

Japan, in Pool A with Scotland, Ireland and Samoa, are aiming to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

A dancer during the opening ceremony
Pieter Labuschagne
Labuschagne extended Japan’s lead early in the second half as Japan’s fitness told

Tamura extended Japan’s advantage with a penalty before Labuschagne ripped the ball out of Andrei Ostrikov’s hands and showed impressive pace by covering half the pitch to score his first international try.

Russia clawed back some points with a Yury Kushnarev penalty, but Japan again responded through Tamura, opting for a greater lead rather than going for a four-try bonus point.

The fourth try soon followed, though, as Vasily Artemyev’s clearing kick went wrong and the ball ended up in the arms of Matsushima once again, allowing the wing to speed past Russian defenders for his hat-trick.

Japan’s next match will be against Ireland on 28 September, while Russia face Samoa on 24 September.

Player of the match – Matsushima

Kotaro Matsushima has a try ruled out
Matsushima would have had a first half hat-trick of tries but this effort was ruled out

With 102 metres run and seven defenders beaten, pacy wing Matsushima put in a promising player-of-the-match performance with his hat-trick heroics in Tokyo.

‘We want to show Japan that we can play – what they said

Japan captain Michael Leitch told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m happy and a win is a win. We knew it was not going to be easy and it took an 80-minute effort. It was exactly how we imagined it would be. We knew they would be passionate, physical and brave and they showed all three.

“We missed the first kick-off and they scored but we regrouped and got ourselves back in the right direction. We are up against Ireland next week and it’s going to be another tough match.

“With what we did in 2015, the memory is still strong with the Japanese public. To have a World Cup on home soil is a great opportunity to inspire the public. We will have another full ground next week and we need to take these opportunities to show Japan that we can play.”

Russia captain Vasily Artemyev: “You could see throughout the game we stuck to our game plan. A few penalties and a couple of missed opportunities, those are the things that made the difference in the end.

“Everyone could see we were playing at the same intensity as Japan. We were pushing them to the edges and we were getting some dividends.

“It was a huge effort from our players but I congratulate Japan on their performance.”

Analysis

2003 World Cup winner Matt Dawson on BBC Radio 5 Live

It has been a great start to the tournament. The opening ceremony went fantastically well. Japan will review the game and could have scored more points but the result was right.

We have seen the strength of the tournament. You over-perform at a World Cup and become superhuman and some of those Russians put their bodies on the line.

Teams

Japan: Tupou; Matsushima, Lafaele, Nakamura, Lemeki; Tamura, Nagare; Inagaki, Horie, Valu; Van der Walt, Moore; Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno.

Replacements: Sakate, Nakajima, Ji-won, Thompson, Tui, Tanaka, Matsuda, Yamanaka

Russia: Artemyev; Davydov, Ostroushko, Gerasimov, Golosnitskiy; Kushnarev, Dorofeev; Morozov, Selskii, Gotovtsev, Ostrikov, Fedotko, Zhivatov, Gadzhiev, Vavilin

Replacements: Matveev, Polivalov, Bitiev, Garbuzov, Sychev, Perov, Gaisin, Sozonov

Japan fans back their team
Japan’s fans are determined to embrace hosting their first Rugby World Cup
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