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As it happened: Canada v Japan

Two evenly-matched teams slugging it out in pursuit of a guaranteed place in the next Rugby World Cup. What more could you want? (Apart from sleep.)

Image : Ross Land/AP/Press Association Images
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It was the night before Tuesday, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… but there was Rugby World Cup action and, by God, was it going to be blogged.

If you’d like to share your opinions, observations, or nervous, insomniacal worries — this is the hour for sharing, and I’m hear to help…– email Conor@thescore.ie, tweet us @thescore__ie, find us on Facebook or leave a comment below.

FT: Canada 23-23 Japan

ITV4 has finally made the jump from that teleshopping presentation about hair removal… I never thought I’d be so relieved to see Craig Doyle. While Lawrence Dallaglio (of pasta sauce fame) wiffles on about New Zealand, we’d best get the formalities out of the way:

Canada– Pritchard, Evans, Van Der Merwe, Smith, Mackenzie, Monro, Fairhurst; Buydens, Riordan, Marshall, Sinclair, Cudmore, Kleeberger, O’Toole, Carpenter.

Japan– Webb, Endo, Tupuailai, Nicholas, Onozawa, Arlidge, Tanaka; Hirashima, Horie, Fujita, Thompson, Kitagawa, Vatuvei, Leitch, Kikutani.

FACTOIDS: Jonathan Kaplan, this evening/morning’s referee, officiated this same fixture four years ago.

Team coaches John Kirwan (Japan) and Kieran Crowley (Canada) played together for New Zealand…

We’re underway, with Canada immediately claiming the start and opting to drive into contact. Japan win the first scrum of the game.

Japan patiently take the ball through a number of phases on the left wing before expanding their repetoire with a series of more ambitious passes to the right wing. Tupuailai loses possession.

Horie overcooks his delivery at a Japanese lineout and the ball makes its way to Ryan Smith, who wavers a moment, draws a tackle and, at the last second, offloads to Van Der Merwe (he of the awful hair), who blazes his way through the Japanese defence.  An ankle-tap brings him to ground a couple of metres shy of the line.

Kaplan goes upstairs, but: no dice.

Try to Canada!

Canada cross the line– Buydens driving over from a couple of yards– but the ball’s held up.

The North Americans baffle Japan at the resulting scrum, launching a dummy run to the blind side, and swing the ball to the opposite wing. Van Der Merwe won’t be denied this time and, after palming a defender off, crosses the line and trots around under the posts.

Pritchard converts with ease.

Canada 7-0 Japan

Try for Japan! A gutsy response from Japan, as Shota Horie bundles over in the right corner. Jonathan Kaplan goes to the TMO (for the third time in ten minutes), but it looks a definite score.

The conversion, from a couple of metres inside the right touchline is a beaut.

Canada 7-7 Japan

Canada look confident taking the ball through a number of phases, but a loose pass from Monro sends VDM scuttling back inside his own half. The ball’s secured, but the resulting defensive clearance goes out on the full.

Arlidge outpaces his support and is penalised for holding on. Canada use the opportunity to clear their lines.

Horie, who either has a number of doppelgangers or a phenomenal workrate, loses the ball forward in midfield.

Japan are penalised for not rolling away and, rather than take a long-range kick at goal, the Canucks opt to punt the ball down the line.

Canada have rucked impressively thus far, but a momentary lapse allows Japan to force the turnover…

… Arlidge breaks in midfield and, attempting a tackle, Pritchard goes down hard and remains motionless, face-down in the turf. The Canadian medical staff rush the pitch. It looks like the full-back caught the swinging arm of Ryan Nicholas.

*relief* The full-back’s up and about again.

Japan begin to build some momentum, but the ball makes its way to Onozawa on the left wing, who has nowhere to go.

Penalty to Japan! Bryce Robins, who replaced Tupuailai, causes mayhem when he storms into the Canadian 22 at an angle. His run very nearly succeeds in clearing a path for Endo. A frantic Canuck is caught offside at the subsequent ruck and Arlidge splits the posts.

Canada 7-10 Japan

Thompson is penalised for not releasing in the tackle and Canada have a penalty on the left wing. Pritchard’s back on the pitch, but doesn’t fancy it, and the ball’s kicked to touch.

Again, Canada claim the lineout but concede a soft turnover, allowing Nicholas embark on a wriggling, unpredictable run that, dodging a handful of tackles, releases his partner in the centre channel, Robins, to drive forward into the Canadian half.

The centre’s soon brought to ground, but has support.

Possession oscillates about the Canadian ten-metre line before Japan are awarded a penalty. They spurn a shot at goal in favour of an attacking lineout.

Japan claim possession from the resulting set-piece, but confusion at the breakdown allows Canada to drive over the ball. Kaplan rewards the Canucks’ endeavour with a scrum.

Try for Japan! Moments after a poor pass deprives him of a certain score in the right corner, Endo steams onto a pass in the midde of field and, veering left, eludes a trio of Canadian defenders en route to the line.

Arlidge can’t miss the conversion.

Canada 7-17 Japan

Half-time: An enthralling first half from Napier. While the Japanese perhaps lack the mechanical, ruthless efficiency of their Canadian opponents, the speed and accuracy of their ball-handling has proven that little bit too hot for the North Americans to handle.

We’re back underway. Japan secure possession from the restart and charge forward.

Try for Canada! A fabulolus arcing run from Phil Mackenzie carves the Japanese defence asunder. He even offers an elegant final flourish, skiping clear of an ankle-tap, as he crosses the line in the right corner.

The conversion goes astray, but it’s…

Canada 12-17 Japan

Japan are at their most comfortable moving the ball through the hands at speed. It’s when Canada succeed in slowing the ball that the game becomes more of a dogfight, the Asians less able to make their superiority tell.

Another threatening run from Endo forces the Canadians into some last-ditch defending.

Under pressure, Endo hesitates under a garryowen and loses the ball forward. The error leaves Canada with an offensive scrum in the middle of the park.

Some promising build-up play leaves Canada with the perfect attacking platform, but after hesitating that bit too long, Japan are allowed to counter-ruck and force a soft penalty for holding on.

Another turnover sends Carpenter charging into the Japanese line. The unconventional No8 is becoming more and more prominent, both carrying the ball into contact and doing his finest Richie McCaw impression (see: interfering at the breakdown) in defence.

VDM slips two tackles and ghosts his way inside the Japanese half. After offloading to the flanker on his shoulder, he turns scrum-half and spins the ball back into the centre… impressive stuff.

Penalty! gawa is penalised for his overexuberance at the breakdown, and Canada are awarded a penalty in from of the Japanese posts.

Canada 15-17 Japan

Penalty for Japan! Canada attempt to claim the restart but fumble the ball forward. Jason Marshall claims the ball, though, and refuses to pass it to Tanaka, who looks like a nagging child beside the prop. Kaplan intervenes and, to Marshall’s apparent disbelief, awards Japan a penalty.

Canada 15-20 Japan

Penalty to Japan!

The game has settled into an uneasy rhythm, lurching from penalty to penalty.

Two consecutive Canadian defensive penalties give way to a Japanese lineout steal and, struggling to cope with the speed of the countterattack, the Canadian defence is penalised for dangerous play.

Arlidge’s effort, from about 35 metres out, splits the posts and takes Japan two scores clear.

Canada 15-23 Japan

Try for Canada! The Canucks take advantage of Japanese complacency and roll forward in concert, testing the Japanese line at different points. Ander Monro is the one who turns the seeming inevitablity into reality, however, driving over from five metres short of the line.

The conversion should be a routine one, but the fly-half slices it wide.

Canada 20-23 Japan

Penalty for Canada! Monro immediately atones from his lapse with the boot. The game is level, raising the spectre of another draw. (This fixture finished all square four years ago.)

Full-time: Canada 23-23 Japan

Japan retain possession as the clock slips past the eighty-minute mark, but seem intent on an attritional roll towards the try-line rather than a long-range drop goal. Eventually, the ball makes its way to Endo, who’s lifted and dragged towards touch by Kleeberger and his chums. The wing succeeds in staying in play, but holds onto the ball a second or two too long.

Kaplan awards a penalty to Canada and immediately calls a halt to proceedings.

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