Rugby World Cup 2019

A win for the typhoon victims

Heartwarming scenes in Yokohama last night after Japan fended off a late fightback by Scotland to win their Rugby World Cup match 28-21 to top Pool A. On current form, they have every chance of repeating their shock victory over the Springboks four y
Heartwarming scenes in Yokohama last night after Japan fended off a late fightback by Scotland to win their Rugby World Cup match 28-21 to top Pool A. On current form, they have every chance of repeating their shock victory over the Springboks four years ago when they meet again on Sunday in the quarter-finals. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Hosts Japan first Asian nation to make q-finals, dedicate feat to disaster sufferers

YOKOHAMA • No side has lit up the Rugby World Cup more than Japan and yesterday's 28-21 victory over Scotland was another electrifying result for the sport as whole.

For the first time in their history the Brave Blossoms have advanced to the quarter-finals of the tournament and will now meet South Africa on Sunday, four years on from their famous win over the Springboks in Brighton.

This was also the day when the patronising tier two label still used by some to describe Japan's status in the game officially ceased to exist.

As was the case against Ireland, the Brave Blossoms were irresistible at times and were more than good value for their four-try success against a Scotland team, whose tournament is now over.

It was less a case of the Scots playing or defending poorly, and more another object lesson in Japanese excellence in front of a crowd of 67,000.

Winger Kenki Fukuoka, scorer of the try that skewered the Irish, added two more big-occasion tries to his collection of five for the tournament, as did Kotaro Matsushima and Keita Inagaki, with the hosts leading 28-7 at one stage before Scotland mounted a valiant late fightback.

It was an emotional occasion in any number of respects, with Japan still picking up the pieces following Typhoon Hagibis, which has left both death and destruction in its wake.

  • 1st

  • Japan have made it out of the pool stages for the first time. They are also the first Asian team to make the World Cup's knockout stages.

Rugby, at such times, is a minor detail but this result offered at least some solace, and afterwards, captain Michael Leitch dedicated the win to the victims, saying "for those suffering from the typhoon, this was for you guys".

He added: "I would like to thank everyone who came tonight. It is tough at the moment so thanks to everyone who made it happen.

"Our heart goes out to all the people suffering from the typhoon. I am incredibly proud. We played with our heart. It wasn't about skill today but was about emotion today.

"We are representing Asia, Japan and tier two. We will give everything in the next games."

Coach Jamie Joseph also told reporters the magnitude of their final Pool A game and the fallout from the natural disaster meant his players "went another level tonight".

On their first victory over Gregor Townsend's men in eight attempts, he said: "They wanted it as much as the Scots and gave as much as they could.

"The Japanese haven't trusted themselves in big moments. Now, they know what it takes to get across the line.

"We talked about that (the typhoon) as a team. While we are celebrating as a team, there are a lot of people really suffering. Sometimes, that can be overwhelming, but it really came out in the team, especially when the game got tough."

Townsend could also take nothing away from Japan's night, admitting Joseph's men "deserved it today".

Warning the Springboks that the Pool A winners "will be a tough team to beat", the Scotland coach said: "They played really well in that first 50-60 (minutes) and they are a very good team.

"They took their opportunities. They cause you problems in a number of areas. They're a very cohesive unit.

"You can tell they've been together for a long time and they know the game they play. They have some real pace and confidence, and they're willing to try things."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'A win for the typhoon victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe