Tommy Seymour tackles Kotaro Matsushima (photo: Clive Rose - World Rugby via Getty Images)
The Brave Blossoms have made history tonight in Yokohama, beating Scotland 28-21 and sealing their first ever appearance in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals.
The game was arguably the best of the tournament so far, but nearly almost didn’t happen after Typhoon Hagibis swept through Japan over the weekend. The storm caused organisers to cancel three games on Saturday and Sunday, and left the decision around playing the Japan v Scotland fixture till late this morning.
It was worth the hassle. Both sides bought into the spirit of running rugby, with deep set backlines and offloads dominating the possessions. The Scots were first to score when first five Finn Russell strode through a gap to touch down next to the posts, which was converted by Greg Laidlaw.
However, the rest of the first half belonged to the home side. Star winger Kotaro Matsushima scored his fifth try of the tournament after a wonderful run and offload by Tim Lafaele. Big prop Keita Inagaki then finished off a sweeping move to score under the posts not long after, and all of a sudden the Japanese had the lead.
Kenki Fukuoka, another winger having a blinder of a tournament, then scored off a kick through right on halftime to stretch the home side’s lead to 21-7. Fukuoka then showed a stunning bit of defensive skill just after the break to strip Scotland’s Chris Harris of the ball, then regather and scoot away to score under the posts.
By now, the Scots would have been forgiven for just hoping the game had been called off, but instead of rolling over they mounted an impressive comeback.
Willem Nel and Zander Fagerson scored within five minutes of each other to make the score 28-21, and the Scots seemed to be coming home with a wet sail in the last 20 minutes. However, Jamie Joseph’s side regrouped to tackle their way to a famous victory.
The win now sets them up for a rematch of the game that put Japanese rugby on the path to great heights they are now. Next weekend they face South Africa, who they beat four years ago in Brighton in what was the greatest upset in World Cup history. The entire nation, still reeling from the tragic typhoon that took 19 lives, will be behind them.
Japan 28 (K Fukuoka 2, K Matsushina, K Inagaki tries; Y Tamura 4 con)
Scotland 21 (F Russell, W Nel, Z Fagerson tries; G Laidlaw 2, Russell con)
HT: 21-7 Japan