Japan Just Fall Short Against World XV

OSAKA (Oct. 26) – A superb second-half comeback from Japan almost saw the Brave Blossoms pick up their first-ever win against the World XV on Friday night at the newly refurbished Hanazono Rugby Stadium.

But the invitation side, coached by Panasonic Wild Knights boss Robbie Deans, held on for a 31-28 victory in a game that saw both teams score some spectacular tries despite the rain that got heavier the longer the game went on.

Flyhalf Lionel Cronje, who plies his trade for Toyota Verblitz, was in superb form for the World XV and it was he who opened the scoring.

Toni Pulu extended the lead following a flowing move before Kenki Fukuoka showed his pace to grab Japan’s first try in the 21st minute.

The rest of the half belonged to the invitation side though as Tevita Li and Jason Jenkins crossed the chalk to make it 24-7 at the break.

Li crossed again straight from the kick-off to start the second stanza before Japan started their fight back with a 90-metre intercept from Timothy Lafaele.

With the Japan bench providing a real impact there were further scores from Lomano Lava Lemeki and Ryoto Nakamura to make it a three-point game.

But the World XV defense held firm in the final minutes as Japan went close to snatching the game at the death, before a knock-on meters from the line brought up the final whistle.

Jamie Joseph’s side take on New Zealand next week in Tokyo before heading to England where they will play England at Twickenham and Russia in Gloucester.