Japan stun Italy in opening test
OITA (June 9) – Japan scored four superb tries Saturday to beat Italy 34-17 at Oita Bank Dome.
Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Kenki Fukuoka, Lomano Lava Lemeki and Kotaro Matsushima all touched down to give the Brave Blossoms their second straight win over the Azzurri following five losses.
Italy replied with tries from Tiziano Pasquali and Abraham Jurgens Steyn but the educated right boot of Yu Tamura ensured it was Japan that came away with the spoils.
Tamura converted all four tries and added two penalties from three attempts in addition to controlling the game well from flyhalf as Japan ensured the first test match to be held in Oita – which will host five games at Rugby World Cup 2019 – ended in a win for the hosts
Italy led early on through Pasquali’s score but the Brave Blossoms hit back with some flowing rugby, with Mafi finishing off some good work by Fukuoka and Leitch before the former showed his pace to cross for Japan’s second try.
The visitors got back into the game just before the break as the teams turned around with Japan leading 17-14, before Tomasso Allan pulled the sides level in the 51st minute.
But Japan’s ability to control the game in the closing stages allowed Lemeki to add his side’s third try thanks to a good kick pass from Tamura and a well-timed catch and offload from Shota Horie, before Matsushima rounded off the scoring as he followed up another good kick from his flyhalf.
The two teams meet again in Kobe next week before Japan finish off their summer test series with a game against Georgia on June 23.