Japan edge USA for valuable win
August 21, 2011
Kikutani's try gave Japan the lead in the early part of the second-half
© Getty Images
Japan wrapped up their Rugby World Cup preparations with a morale-boosting 20-14 victory over the USA in Tokyo on Sunday.
The Brave Blossoms trailed their visitors 14-8 at half-time but struck back with 12 unanswered points after the break thanks largely to tries from Takashi Kikutani and Takehisa Usuzuki. Kevin Swiryn notched two tries for the Eagles but it was not enough to prevent them from slipping to their third straight defeat.
The result will be a huge boost for coach John Kirwan following his side's reverse at the hands of Italy last weekend with their World Cup opener against France in North Harbour on September 10 while Eddie O'Sullivan's Eagles must re-group before their first pool clash against against Ireland three weeks today.
In front of a good crowd at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Japan opened the scoring in the sixth minute through Taihei Ueda. In horrendous conditions, Ueda took advantage of good work from Alisi Tupuailai to crash over the line. The hosts' joy proved to be short lived though as Swiryn responded in kind with a try of his own moments later. The Eagles took the lead with the conversion from Nese Malifa but the hosts struck back soon after through a drop goal from Ryan Nicholas.
The USA hit back before the break with Swiryn's second try giving them the edge once more before Malifa added the conversion with the last kick of the half to cement his side's lead.
However, it was all Japan in the second-half and Kikutani barged his way through the Eagles' defensive line shortly after the re-start to bring his side back to within a point. Shaun Webb added the extras to put the hosts back in front Usuzuki's score just past the hour mark secured the win for the home side.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall