Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO
Five in a row

Rennie takes positives as Wallabies edge Japan

Australia have won five games in a row for the first time since 2015.

Head coach Dave Rennie said the Wallabies were “rusty” in a nervy 32-23 win over Japan on Saturday, but he believes it will stand them in good stead for their coming tour to Europe.

Australia failed to shake off a dogged Japanese side until the last minute of their match in Oita, with a late Connal McInerney try finally setting the seal on their fifth successive Test win.

Rennie said his team lacked “a bit of patience” at times, but he is confident of improvement against Scotland, England and Wales over the coming weeks.

“We’re happy to win, and we’ll be better for that game,” Rennie said.

“They’re a good side. Every time we gave them a bit of a sniff, they hurt us.”

Rennie added that Japan were “a different enemy” from the teams they had faced in the Rugby Championship, where the Wallabies scored two wins each over South Africa and Argentina this season.

He also said Japan were “quite different from what we’ll face for the next three weeks,” looking ahead to the tour.

But Rennie may have to do without full-back Reece Hodge in Europe, after an early injury against Japan put his participation in doubt.

Rennie said the extent of Hodge’s injury was not yet known.

Hodge’s replacement against Japan, Jordan Petaia, helped Australia take control in the first half, adding a try to Tom Wright’s early score for the visitors.

But Japan hit back with one of their own through Lomano Lava Lemeki, and the Wallabies headed into the break only 17-13 ahead.

Tries from Taniela Tupou and Rob Leota early in the second half put Australia back in command, but Japan refused to be beaten and Ryoto Nakamura scored to set up a tight finish.

Nakamura picked off a long Quade Cooper pass attempt for his try, and Rennie said his side “probably overplayed” at times.

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph was left to rue his team’s poor discipline, giving away 17 penalties and having Lemeki sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge.

“As soon as you go to 14 men, the pressure is compounded to the rest of the team,” Joseph said.

“We are simply not a team that can beat Tier One teams with 14 men on the field for 10 minutes.”

Japan will also head off on tour to take on Ireland, Portugal and Scotland.

Australia captain Michael Hooper, who played club rugby in Japan earlier this year, was impressed by the home team.

“Japan have been improving really fast over the last couple of years,” said Hooper.

“Sometimes it felt today that we were able to put a lot of pressure on the Japanese side, and they were able to find solutions and get out of that and flip it straight back onto us.”

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