Wales cruise past Japan
September 20, 2007
James Hook breaks clear of the Japan defence to score
© Getty Images
Wales found their scoring touch to run in 11 tries in a 72-18 victory over Japan at the Millennium Stadium. Flanker Martyn Williams and winger Shane Williams both touched down twice against a spirited but outclassed Japan in their third Pool B match.
Wales were aiming to register their 300th Test win and, more importantly, avoid a potential banana skin when they met Japan in their third Pool B match at the Millennium Stadium. The Welsh have won all 10 previous meetings with the Cherry Blossoms, who are 10 places below them in the world rankings, and triumphed 98-0 in their last encounter in Cardiff three years ago.
Coach Gareth Jenkins, hamstrung by a five-day turnaround from the loss to Australia and injuries to centres Gareth Thomas and Sonny Parker, made no fewer than 10 changes to his side. He was also forced into a late reshuffle when flanker Jonathan Thomas pulled out after failing to recover from a broken finger.
Martyn Williams came back into the side to start at openside, with Colin Charvis switching to the blindside on his 92nd Test appearance, which equalled Gareth Llewellyn's record for the number of caps by a Welsh forward.
Jenkins retained a nucleus of senior players in Stephen Jones, who captained the side, Alun-Wyn Jones and Shane Williams, who won his 50th cap. Japan coach John Kirwan, the former All Black World Cup winner, was also forced into making a late change, with New Zealand-born flanker Philip O'Reilly dropping out with a sore hip.
Shane Williams began his landmark match in ignominious fashion, spilling the ball from each of his first two carries and Japan capitalised on his second error. When the Welsh forwards were caught offside 30 metres out from their own line, centre Shotaro Onishi made them pay with a penalty that put his side 3-0 in front with only three minutes on the clock.
A half-break from Stephen Jones gave the home fans in the half-full stadium something to cheer and most of the opening quarter was played out in the Japanese half. The first try came, in somewhat fortuitous fashion, on 10 minutes when Kevin Morgan's kick ricocheted off a defender and Stephen Jones re-gathered to get left winger Dafydd James into his stride.
When the cover got back to make the tackle, lock Alun-Wyn Jones was in support to finish off the move and Jones converted the try. Quick hands then released Williams but referee Joel Jutge pulled play back for a forward pass while Wales had a let-off when Japan winger Kosuke Endo knocked on in a promising position.
Jones looked to have scored a second try when he charged down Onishi's attempted clearance only to be brought back for a scrum and, when Alix Popham found himself isolated in the next play, the visitors struck for a wonderful breakaway try. Lock Hitoshi Ono pounced on the loose possession and Bryce Robins combined with Onishi and Juta Imamura to get Endo over for a 90-metre try which put the Japanese into an 8-7 lead.
In a sign of huge respect for the Cherry Blossoms, Wales went for goal when awarded a penalty on 22 minutes and Jones' successful kick edged his side back in front. The Welsh then seized control with two tries in eight minutes, the first thanks to a moment of magic from James Hook, who took Jamie Robinson's pass on the wing and, after dummying his way into open space, had the pace to scorch away for a solo try.
Wales continued with their adventurous approach but ruined much of the good work with some careless finishing and it needed a more direct approach from Rhys Thomas to bring them their third try, the hooker forcing his way over from five metres out. Jones maintained his 100% record with the boot to put his side 24-8 ahead and, although Onishi pulled three points back with a penalty, Wales secured their bonus-point try with the last move of the first half.
The hugely impressive Martyn Williams handled twice and full-back Kevin Morgan exploited a gap out wide by taking Robinson's pass to cross for Wales' fourth try. Wales set off in similar vein in the second half and ought to have made more of a clean break by scrum-half Michael Phillips but the supporting Hook was brought down five yards short of the line.
Phillips ensured the opportunity was not wasted, though, when he was put through a gap by Duncan Jones and this time held off the cover to force his way over for his side's fifth try. The second half was becoming the Phillips show and Shane Williams was the beneficiary of his next break, racing over for his 33rd try which enabled him to draw level with Ieuan Evans in second place behind Gareth Thomas in the Welsh scoring list.
James then grabbed try number seven and Jones took his goal tally to six from eight attempts as Wales cruised to their anticipated victory stroll. Japan had Onishi carried off on a stretcher 11 minutes into the second half while Wales introduced lock Ian Evans for his first rugby for nine months after being sidelined with shoulder and collar bone injuries.
The plucky Japanese gained further reward for their endeavours on 56 minutes when left winger Hirotoki Onozawa intercepted Popham's pass to sprint 60 metres for a try and Robins added the conversion. But normal service was quickly resumed, with replacement scrum-half Gareth Cooper scoring straight from a scrum close to the Japanese line and Martyn Williams claimed a deserved score when he dummied his way over on 63 minutes.
The former skipper then added a second 10 minutes later, slipping through a gap and showing a neat turn of pace to reach the line. Ceri Sweeney, having taken over from Stephen Jones, converted both Williams' tries, but the final say went to Shane Williams. He had a chance to grab a second try after clever play from Sweeney only to kick the ball dead, but he was not to be denied as he pounced for the 34th try of his career in the last minute of the match.
Wales 72 (29)
Japan 18 (11)
Wales: Morgan, D. James, Robinson, Hook, S. Williams, S. Jones, Phillips, D. Jones, R. Thomas, Horsman, W. James, A. Jones, Charvis, M. Williams, Popham.
Replacements: Bennett, Jenkins, Evans, Owen, Cooper, Sweeney, Shanklin.
Japan: Loamanu, Endo, Imamura, Onishi, Onozawa, Robins, Yoshida, Nishiura, Matsubara, Soma, H. Ono, Thompson, Watanabe, Makiri, Miuchi.
Replacements: Inokuchi, Yamamura, Kiso, Asano, Taira, Kusumi.
Referee: J Jutge (France)
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