YOKOHAMA (REUTERS) - Winger Kenki Fukuoka produced two pieces of individual brilliance as a high-paced Japan advanced to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time with a 28-21 victory over Scotland at Yokohama on Sunday (Oct 13).
The win ensured Japan finished top of Pool A and will face Pool B runners-up South Africa in Tokyo next Sunday, with Ireland facing Pool B winners New Zealand on the same ground next Saturday.
Fukuoka scored tries either side of half-time as the tournament hosts were roared on by a sea of red and white jersey-wearing fans at Yokohama Stadium with a frenetic attacking game and ferocious defence.
Loosehead prop Keita Inagaki and Kotaro Matsushima also scored tries for the tournament hosts, who had to withstand a furious finish by Scotland as they battled back from 28-7 down with 30 minutes remaining.
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 that they won all four pool games.
They were faster, sharper, more inventive and, roared on by the vast majority of the delirious red-and-white-clad crowd, absolutely relentless in everything they did as they became the first tier-two team to reach the last eight since Fiji in 2007.
Japan captain Michael Leitch dedicated the team’s victory over the Scots to those affected by the super typhoon which nearly forced the cancellation of the match.
Remarkably, the match was played a matter of hours after Typhoon Hagibis, one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit the country in recent history, ripped through the Tokyo region, killing 23 people.
“I would like to thank everyone who came tonight,” Leitch said.
“It is tough at the moment with typhoon so thanks to everyone who made it happen. For those suffering from the typhoon this was for you guys.
“Our heart goes out to all the people suffering from the typhoon.”
Chants of “Nippon! Nippon! Nippon!” echoed around the arena throughout the contest as the red-and-white clad majority of the 67,666 crowd got a chance to cheer their own nation at the stadium that hosted the 2002 football World Cup final.