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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

Brilliant Blossoms scorch into RWC clash with South Africa

The host nation secured a bonus point early in the second half and withstood a Scottish comeback effort.

Japan 28

Scotland 21

JAPAN’S ‘FERRARIS’ HIT top gear as the hosts beat Scotland 28-21 in a barnstorming Rugby World Cup clash to create history by reaching the quarter-finals.

Rampaging wingers Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka did the damage for Japan, who survived a late fightback in Yokohama to advance as Pool A winners along with Ireland. 

The Brave Blossoms will face two-time world champions South Africa in Tokyo next weekend after making it a perfect four wins out of four, roared on by a crowd of 67,000. 

Fukuoka, scorer of Japan’s try in their 19-12 upset over Ireland, grabbed two more in Yokohama with Matsushima notching his fifth of the tournament for the rampant Japanese. 

After a war of words between the rival coaches in the build-up, the teams observed a moment’s silence for the victims of the violent typhoon that swept through Japan on Saturday, killing at least 26 and forcing organisers to scrap three pool games.

kenki-fukuoka-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-fourth-try-with-team-mates Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

The needle between the sides quickly resurfaced in Sunday’s typhoon-threatened Pool A decider, however, as both teams put in some monstrous early tackles. 

Scotland needed to win while preventing Japan from securing a defensive bonus point — and they got off to a flying start. 

Early pressure told as fly-half Finn Russell broke through to give them the lead after just seven minutes. 

But the Japanese hit back quickly with Matsushima latching onto a superb, one-handed offload from Fukuoka to score his fifth try of the tournament. 

Even better was to come from the hosts with a dazzling string of offloads between Shota Horie and William Tupou releasing loosehead prop Keita Inagaki to crash over. 

On the stroke of half-time, the jet-heeled Fukuoka plucked a high-bouncing Timothy Lafaele grubber kick out of the air to leave Scotland with a mountain to climb.

Fukuoka then produced a moment of solo brilliance moments into the second half, stripping the ball from Chris Harris before accelerating clear. 

Scotland, who had bounced back from a 27-3 drubbing by Ireland to smash Samoa 34-0 and Russia 61-0, looked out of it. 

kenki-fukuoka-scores-his-sides-fourth-try Fukuoka seals the bonus point for Japan. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

When WP Nel and Zander Fagerson bulldozed over in the space of five minutes, suddenly the Japanese were creaking. 

But they stood firm in the face of a late barrage to avenge a 45-10 defeat by Scotland that cost them a place in the knockout stages of the 2015 World Cup. 

That team, led by Eddie Jones, won three matches, including a breathless 34-32 victory over South Africa in their opening game. 

Japan’s current vintage thrashed Russia 30-10 and Samoa 38-19 either side of their massive win over Ireland and coach Jamie Joseph will relish the chance to have another crack at the Springboks.

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