Japan crush South Korea in Asian Five Nations

Defending champions Japan opened their Asian Five Nations campaign with an emphatic 71-13 win over South Korea on Saturday, highighted by a remarkable five-try effort from winger Kosuke Endo.


In a classic game of two halves, Japan, Asia’s dominant rugby nation, started slow as the Koreans came out with a ferocious intent that saw them push hard early on.


Unfortunately a weak boot from Korean fly-half Yoon Hee-Soo, who missed two of three kickable penalties in the first-half, prevented them from generating any early momentum.


Despite their sputtering start, Japan did enough to take a 19-3 lead into half-time through tries by hooker Shota Horie, scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and winger Endo.


The ever-reliable Ryan Nicholas added two conversions, and finished with eight on the day.


Korea let themselves down through repeated infringements that saw the inevitable sin-binning, this time to scrum-half Park Wan-Yong in the 37th minute and Japan made the most of the resulting man advantage.


They came out firing in the second period with Yasunori Nagatomo scoring in the 41st minute. Takashi Kikutani, Hitoshi Ono and Hiroki Yuhara also crossed over.


But Endo stole the show with tries in the 58th, 68th, 71st and 80th minutes.


With their three remaining games in Tokyo, Japan remain on course to be Asia’s automatic entry at next year’s World Cup where they would be seeded in Pool A alongside hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada.


“The first half was not to our level,” said Japan’s New Zealand coach John Kirwan. “We need to work harder moving forward. But I will take it as a first game and tell the team to start from the second half.”


In the weekend’s other game, the Arabian Gulf recorded a historic 16-9 victory over Hong Kong in Bahrain on Friday — their first win in six attempts at the Asian Five Nations.


Hong Kong went into the match confident after upsetting Korea, the 2008 runners-up, 32-8 in an impressive display last weekend, but instead it was the Gulf who made the early running.


James Love kicked a penalty and converted scrum-half Jonny MacDonald’s try to give them a 10-0 lead.


Hong Kong finally got on the scoreboard with a penalty late in the first half through fly-half Keith Robertson, but Love ensured the hosts still went in with that 10-point cushion with his second penalty.


The Gulf spent long periods of the second-half on defensive duty, but their line held firm with Love slotting another penalty to increase their lead.


Robertson scored two more penalties for Hong Kong, but the Arabian Gulf were not to be denied as they bounced back from a 43-28 loss in Kazakhstan last week.

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