Japan kick off Five Nations with Honk Kong win

Japan marked an emotional return to the Asian Five Nations with a 22-45 away victory over Hong Kong, as they began their World Cup preparations with glimpses of free-flowing rugby.

Ahead of the game the crowd observed a moment’s silence to mark the victims of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Heads bowed and arms across each other’s shoulders Japan’s players, sporting black armbands, led the tribute while a Japanese flag was unfurled with the words “One for all and all for one” running across the Rising Sun.

Japan are Asia’s number one side and the tournament’s defending champions, and after testy early exchanges in which both teams swapped big hits Japanese pressure began to translate into possession close to the home try line.

Powerful number eight Ryukoliniasi Holani found his way through the defence on 11 minutes, with his try was converted by Ryan Nicholas.

Japan’s back line began to assert themselves, with quick hands aiding their expansive running game to pin Hong Kong down on their 22. After a clever dummy fly-half Shaun Webb went over on 18 minutes, again converted by Nicholas.

Mop-haired captain Takashi Kikutani was at the centre of Japan’s forward play, bustling with energy and drive, and Japan notched a third try through centre Hirotoki Onozawa.

Hong Kong’s first points did not come until the 35th minute, from the boot of Keith Robertson, but two quick-fire Ailsi Tupuailai tries, the second off a flowing move started deep in Japan’s half, gave the visitors a commanding 3-31 half-time lead.

True to their captain’s pre-match pledge not to roll over Hong Kong stuck doggedly to their task, with the forwards tackling hard and backs increasingly influential.

In the second half Tupuailai completed his hat-trick but Hong Kong outscored the visitors by three tries to two, including a Rowan Varty dash the length of the field with 15 minutes to go.

That left the hosts 22-45 behind, but the reigning champions refused to be pegged back any further.

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