Clinical Japan Run Past Fiji
KAMAISHI, Japan (July 27) – Japan picked up their first win over Fiji since 2011 and only their fourth in 18 meetings as they beat the defending Pacific Nations Cup champions 34-21 on Saturday at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.
Japan dominated the early proceedings with Yu Tamura kicking a penalty goal and then putting in a deft kick from which Kenki Fukuoka scored as the Brave Blossoms led 8-0 with nine minutes on the clock.
Fiji hit back with a try that highlighted their athleticism and skill with Levania Botia finishing off some good work from Semi Kunatani.
But Kotaro Matsushima restored Japan’s eight-point advantage when he picked a superb angle to bisect the visitors’ midfield to go over.
While that was an individual effort, Japan’s third try in the 23rd minute was a team effort with Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Shota Horie and Matsushima combining to put Timothy Lafaele across the chalk.
With Filipo Nakosi sent to the sin bin for a high tackle, Kazuki Himeno further increased Japan’s lead when he powered over from five metres out.
Tamura added his third conversion of the stanza to open up a 22-point gap between the sides. But Sam Matavesi touched down just before halftime with Ben Volavola’s second conversion of the half ensuring the teams turned around with the hosts leading 29-14.
The second half got off to a frantic start.
Fiji almost scored start from the restart but Waisea Nayacalevu was foiled by a great tackle from Will Tupou. A minute later Himeno crossed for what looked to be his second try of the day before the TMO ruled there had been a knock-on in the build-up.
However, Japan were not to be denied and some good soccer skills from Matsushima following a superb hit by Lafaele in midfield saw the Brave Blossoms wing go over for try No. 2 and the fifth five-pointer of the afternoon for Japan.
A big driving maul from Fiji in the 60th minute saw Matavesi pick up his brace as the visitors closed to within 13 points at 34-21.
But that was as good as it got for Fiji and the crowd of 13,135 gave their local heroes a standing ovation at the final whistle.