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Brilliant Japan take big step towards quarters with bonus-point win over Samoa

Kotaro Matsushima’s last-gasp try secured the bonus point and sent the City of Toyota Stadium wild.

Japan have won all three of their pool games.
Japan have won all three of their pool games.
Image: Shuji Kajiyama

JAPAN BEAT SAMOA 38-19 to claim their third straight win at the Rugby World Cup and draw closer to reaching the quarter-finals for the first time.

Timothy Lafaele, Kazuki Himeno and Kenki Fukuoka scored tries for the hosts before Kotaro Matsushima got the important bonus-point fourth try with the clock red, as Japan returned to the top of Pool A ahead of Ireland.

Jamie Joseph’s side head into the final week of pool games on 14 points and know victory over Scotland would secure their passage through to the knockout stages on home soil. 

Samoa threw down the challenge before the game with their fearsome “siva tau” war dance on a cool night in Toyota.

But in the heartland of the ancient samurai warriors, it was Japan who showed the greater hunger and fight as the Pacific islanders made an early exit.

Tamura and Henry Taefu traded a handful of penalties in the early skirmishes before Lafaele scored the game’s first try just before the half-hour mark after swarming Japanese pressure.

With Samoa’s TJ Ioane in the sin bin for a late hit on local boy Tamura, Lafaele spotted a gap and crashed over to the joy of 45,000 fans at the Toyota stadium.

Samoa full-back Tim Nanai-Williams, cousin of All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill, went off with a head injury just before half-time after being smashed by James Moore — his failure to re-emerge a big miss.

japan-rugby-wcup-japan-samoa It was another memorable night for Japanese rugby. Source: Shuji Kajiyama

Leading 16-9 at the break, Taefu’s boot brought Samoa to within four points before Tamura slotted a penalty of his own and Himeno bulldozed over after 54 minutes.

The crowd’s excitement reached fever pitch as Japan’s maul rolled on from a lineout and Himeno completed the job.

Samoa had won 11 of the 15 Tests played between the sides but it has been seven years since they last beat Japan.

Himeno’s try knocked the stuffing out of the Pacific islanders, who reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 1991 and 1995 but have been cannon fodder for the bigger teams in recent tournaments.

Taefu scored and converted a try that gave Samoa brief hope before Fukuoka added a late third try for Japan.

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Then almost five minutes after the final gong, Matsushima darted over for his fourth try of the tournament to bring Japan a precious bonus point and give the scoreline a slightly flattering complexion.

After beating Russia 30-10 and then stunning Ireland 19-12 to top Pool A, Japan face Scotland next week in the biggest game in their history.

Samoa crashed out of the tournament after their opening 34-9 win over Russia was followed by a 34-0 drubbing by Scotland in their next game. 

© – AFP, 2019 

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