Japan's Kazuki Himeno. Alamy Stock Photo

Japan beat Tonga, Fiji down Samoa ahead of Rugby World Cup

The Brave Blossoms earned a much-needed morale boost with a 21-16 victory over Tonga, who face Ireland at the Rugby World Cup.

JAPAN EARNED A much-needed morale boost on Saturday with a 21-16 victory over Tonga as they step up their preparations for the Rugby World Cup later this year.

The Brave Blossoms overcame early Tongan pressure to grab three tries for the victory, after three recent losses including against Samoa last week.

Japan will face Fiji next month at home before playing Italy ahead of the World Cup. Tonga play Samoa and Canada in August ahead of a tough pool draw which sees them face Ireland in their second World Cup fixture on 16 September.

“It was nice to get a win and get our campaign on the road,” Japan coach Jamie Joseph said after the “physical” match at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka.

Japan clinched the first try in the 20th minute, when Jone Naikabula rushed along the left side to open the scoring.

Tongan quickly equalised with a try by Sonatane Takulua, but Japan managed to stay a step ahead of the visitors.

Around 40 minutes into the game, Naikabula kicked the ball through the Tongans toward the goal line where Amato Fakatava rushed in to score a try to expand Japan’s lead 13-5 before the break.

Tonga repeatedly threatened Japan and didn’t let the hosts enjoy a wide lead.

The visitors made a dramatic intercept a few minutes before the finish but Japan was able to contain the scare and secure victory.

hanazono-rugby-stadium-osaka-japan-29th-july-2023-lee-seungsin-jpn-july-29-2023-rugby-lipovitan-d-challenge-cup-2023-between-japan-vs-tonga-at-hanazono-rugby-stadium-osaka-japan-credit Japan's Lee Seungsin. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Japan veteran Ryohei Yamanaka said the win should give the team momentum going into the World Cup.

“It was a tough match. It was great that we were able to execute our plans and grab the victory. This should give us more energy going forward,” he said.

“We have had a series of losses and we haven’t been able to show results. So this win today gives us confidence. We can grow as a team now and we will have more momentum going forward,” he said.

Japan is in Pool D at the World Cup alongside England, Argentina, Chile and Samoa. They reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time on home soil four years ago.

They suffered a 24-22 loss to Samoa a week ago, when former captain Michael Leitch received a red card for a high tackle.

He is being sidelined for three matches through the end of August including the latest contest.

Earlier on Saturday, Fiji fired another Rugby World Cup warning shot with a 33-19 win over Samoa.

The Fijians scored all four of their tries in the opening half-hour at Apia Park to lead 30-5 at the interval before Samoa had the better of the second spell in wet conditions.

It was a fourth successive Test win for Fiji, who opened the Pacific Nations Cup with a 36-20 defeat of Tonga in Lautoka seven days earlier.

They have been touted as a potential danger side at the World Cup in France, where they are grouped with struggling traditional powers Australia and Wales.

Samoa, coming off a 24-22 upset of Japan in Sapporo, paid the price for giving the visiting Fijians too much space in the early stages.

Hooker Tevita Ikanivere, the captain of Fijian Drua in the Super Rugby Pacific domestic competition, grabbed two early tries from close range.

Iosefo Masi crossed on Test debut after being put through by seasoned midfield partner Semi Radradra.

Fiji’s best try was a sweeping 90-metre effort finished by Selestino Ravutaumada after a break by fellow-winger Kalaveti Ravouvou.

Samoa’s lone first half try went to fly-half and former Wallabies international Christian Leali’ifano.

Tumua Manu and Fritz Lee crossed for tries after halftime but Caleb Muntz kept Fiji in front with the boot, netting 13 points.

The Pacific Nations Cup final round matches next weekend will see Samoa host Tonga and unbeaten Fiji travel to Japan.

– © AFP 2023

The 42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel