|2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A: Japan v Scotland|
|Japan: (21) 28|
|Tries: Matsushima, Inagaki, Fukuoka (2) Con: Tamura (4)|
|Scotland: (7) 21|
|Tries: Russell, Nel, Fagerson Con: Laidlaw (2), Russell|
Scotland crashed out of the Rugby World Cup at the pool stage for only the second time after being beaten by an irrepressible Japan in Yokohama.
The conversion made it 14-7, then just before the break came the try that looked like sending Scotland heading home. Timothy Lafaele grubbered in behind and Fukuoka seized on it to get Japan’s third try. Two more points from Tamura made it 21-7 at half-time. Scotland were on the floor.
‘Huge moment for incredible country’
Three minutes into the second half, Japan scored again. Fukuoka ripped it from Harris and, when the ball went spinning in the air after contact, the wing caught it and sprinted off to score. Tamura made it 28-7. A rout. Or so it seemed.
Scotland needed the kind of miracle they produced at Twickenham in March. When Nel grunted his way over the line to narrow the gap, Laidlaw’s conversion made it a 14-point game. Scotland were still a mile off their target. The bench got busy. Six of them came on at once – and Scotland scored again.
Hogg began it, there was a lovely one-two between the immense Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings, Gray running on and feeding Fagerson, who thumped his way through Horie to get the ball down. Russell banged over the extras this time. Seven points in it now. Still a mountain to climb, but this was pulsating stuff.
Japan were denied after another turnover by the towering Ritchie, then they asked their own questions again. It was Scottish pressure now. Chasing two converted tries and a penalty or drop goal they had to take risks, had to force the issue, had to make sure that every pass stuck, every attack counted.
They owned the ball in the closing minutes, but Japan’s defence was unbreakable. Their crowd roared and roared and roared again. Scotland were not going to get the points they needed now. There was no time. For them, the battle was all about getting another try and a conversion and a draw. They bust a gut but Japan would not let them through.
When they turned over that last Scottish raid the acclaim of the home support was deafening. A huge moment for this incredible country, a huge moment for this World Cup.
Scotland are heading home. Japan? Who knows how far they’re heading. Further than they’ve ever gone before, that’s for sure.
- Japan are just the fourth non tier-one side to reach the quarter-finals, and the first since Fiji in 2007.
- Scotland have failed to make it out of the pool stages for just the second time (also in 2011).
- Japan have won six consecutive World Cup matches – only Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa have enjoyed longer winning runs.
- Samoa (1991 and 1995) are the only other non tier-one side to beat two tier-one teams in the same World Cup, as Japan have in 2019 with victories over Ireland and Scotland.
- Kotaro Matsushima has scored five tries at this year’s tournament.
- Luke Thompson, 38, made a record 13th World Cup appearance for Japan and became the third-oldest player from any nation to feature.
Japan: Tupou; Matsushima; Lafaele, Nakamura; Fukuoka; Tamura; Nagare; Inagaki, Horie, Koo; Thompson, Moore; Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno.
Replacements: Sakate, Nakajima, Ai Valu, Helu, Tui, Tanaka, Matsuda, Yamanaka.
Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Harris, Johnson, Graham, Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, Brown, Nel, Gilchrist, Gray, Bradbury, Ritchie, Thomson.
Replacements: McInally, Reid, Fagerson, Cummings, Wilson, G Horne, P Horne, Kinghorn.