Japan End Autumn Series with Win over Russia

GLOUCESTER, England (Nov. 24) Japan finished their autumn series of games on a winning note Saturday as they came from behind to beat Russia 32-27 at Gloucester Rugby Club’s Kingsholm Stadium.

Having lost to a World XV, New Zealand and England, the Brave Blossoms showed some excellent resilience to come from behind following a first half dominated by the Russians.

Yury Kushnarev kicked three penalties, Ramil Gaisin added a further two while Masakatsu Nishikawa was in the sin bin and Vladimir Ostrushko scored an intercept try to make it 22-10 at the break, Japan’s points coming from a try by Michael Leitch and a penalty and conversion from Rikiya Matsuda

Leitch said his side had given away too many penalties and not held onto the ball long enough, and his side took note at the halftime break and produced a much better second-half performance.

A good tackle by Kenki Fukuoka crossed four minutes into the second half forced a turnover and three phases later the flying wing crossed for Japan’s second try.

He was followed onto the scoresheet by Hendrik Tui, who evaded a number of tacklers on a 55-meter run to the line.

Russia hooker Stanislav Sel’skiy briefly restored Russia’s lead in the 59th minute. But with experienced campaigners such as Yu Tamura coming off the bench, Japan finished the stronger of the two sides.

Tamura kicked a penalty and then produced a clever kick from which Leitch crossed for his second try to seal the win.

“We knew the Russians would be waiting for us physically and they didn’t disappoint,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

“They played very well for the full 80 minutes. To come back and win that in the second half is a sign of our development as a team. I’m not sure that’s a game we would have won a year ago.”

The two teams will next meet in Tokyo on Sept. 20 in the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2019.