Japan gets four tries to beat Tonga

Asian champions Japan ran in four tries to beat Tonga 35-13 for their first win in the six-team Pacific Nations Cup here on Sunday.

Japan scored all their tries in the second half after leading 12-6 at half-time, earning their first bonus point in the three-year history of the tournament. Tonga scored a single try in the 50th minute.

“The team played for 80 minutes and showed really good commitment across the field,” said Japan coach and All Black legend John Kirwan, whose side lost to Australia A 42-21 in their opener a week ago in Fukuoka.

Disappointed Tonga captain Nili Latu said: “We wanted to play a wide game.”

“We didn’t trust in our system and it cost us the game,” he added.

Tonga took an early lead through a penalty by stand-off Pierre Hola but Japan’s James Arlidge levelled the score with a penalty. Hola put the visitors ahead again in the sixth minute with another penalty but Arlidge again levelled the scores on 26 minutes.

Arlidge, a New Zealander who missed the World Cup with Japan last year due to an injury, added two more penalty goals to give Japan a 12-6 lead at half-time.

In the second half Japan stepped up a gear with unconverted tries for Takashi Kikutani, Hirotoki Onozawa, Shaun Webb and substitute Bryce Robins.

Tonga’s single try came 10 minutes into the second half through number eight Lotu Filipine, with Hola converting to pull the score back to 13-20 before the Japanese side put the game beyond the visitors. Arlidge scored five penalties from seven attempts.

The win for Japan, who finished bottom of the table in 2006 and 2007, is their second against Tonga after a 20-17 victory last year. Kirwan said his side had improved by playing rugby to suit their strengths.

“We are playing a style that suits the players,” he said.

“We showed real courage in defence and took risks with ball in hand. That combination and the speed we play means we are finally playing like a Japanese side.” Japan captain Takuro Miuchi agreed.

“We played with the belief that our style of play is the right one. I believe this team will improve a lot more,” he said. Japan next face Fiji in Tokyo, while Tonga clash with leaders Australia A in Sydney, both on June 22.

— Scores:

Japan 35 (Takashi Kikutani, Hirotoki Onozawa, Shaun Webb, Bryce Robins tries; James Arlidge 5 penalties),
Tonga 13 (Lotu Filipine try; Pierre Hola 2 penalties, 1 conversion). HT, 12-6.

Sapa-AP – Rugbyweek.com

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