The tears started earlier than kick-off. They fell throughout and simply after a Japanese anthem haunting in its magnificence and emotion. They continued throughout this most unbelievable of Rugby World Cup matches and they’d have fallen for a very long time afterwards because the Courageous Blossoms despatched them homeward to assume once more, because the opposition anthem famously says.
This match between Japan and Scotland marks the top of the pool section and begin of the knockout matches and it feels just like the World Cup has correctly begun. Japan are in a quarter-final for the primary time by advantage of ending Pool A in first place. Their reward is a mouthwatering conflict in opposition to South Africa. Eire, whom Japan famously beat in Shizuoka a few weeks in the past, will face the All Blacks in theirs on Saturday.
That is one other scrumptious prospect on a number of ranges, however it may well wait, as can the remainder of the quarter-finals, as a result of this effort by Kiwi coach Jamie Joseph, his countryman Michael Leitch and the remainder of Japan’s squad to get so far deserves to be celebrated to the fullest.
Had this match been referred to as off attributable to Storm Hagibis, Scotland would have gone dwelling burning with righteous anger and begun the method of lawyering up. Now they’re simply going dwelling, however they performed their half – did they what.
Their threats to sue World Rugby ought to the organising physique name off this fixture at Yokohama Stadium would have sounded not simply hole however faintly ridiculous had they not launched their second-half comeback which took this already electrical match to a brand new degree.
They have been close to buried at 28-7 two minutes after the break. That they got here again to not simply make a sport of it however significantly fear the Japanese owed a lot to their psychological fortitude and skill to deal with the tempo.
The Scots have constructed a fame over the previous couple of years of enjoying with model and freedom and giving the ball a little bit of air. Within the first half they have been made to look positively pedestrian by the boys in pink and white jerseys who’re taking the high-tempo sport to a different degree of their homeland however as soon as their two large males WP Nel and Zander Fagerson crashed over to slim the hole to 28-21 after 55 minutes it was sport on.
In the long run they have been overwhelmed by Japan’s virtually superhuman vitality and possibly one of the best scrambling defence of this event. Fullback Stuart Hogg and first-five Finn Russell, particularly, can take a bow.
Japan wanted solely two factors to qualify however they’d their four-try bonus level two minutes into the second half when little left wing Kenki Fukuoka stripped the ball from a Scotland participant, caught it, and ran in below the posts. He had scored his first of the night time a minute earlier than the break.
The gang, who chanted “Nippon” all through, could not consider what was occurring. And to assume this match might have been performed earlier than an empty stadium because of the deluge and excessive winds the day earlier than.
There was much more of that form of factor; loosehead prop Keita Inagaki catching a dipping ball after a superb interchange to go in below the posts – proper wing Kotaro Matsushima, who scored a hat-trick within the opening sport of the event in opposition to Russia manner again on September 20 and the bonus level attempt within the 84th minute in opposition to Samoa, darted this fashion and that.
Shota Horie, the hooker with the loopy hair, was all over the place. Substitute loosehead prop Isileli Nakajima was a monster with bleach blond hair. No eight Kazuki Himeno was all energy, skipper Leitch a peaceful and regular presence with an uncanny potential to seem on the correct touchline and steamroll a poor exterior again.
For his or her mentor Joseph, a 49-year-old who performed 29 exams for the All Blacks, this may characterize his most important achievement as a coach.
His workforce’s dedication was absolute, but additionally, crucially, correct. It additionally meant one thing massively vital. Tighthead prop Jiwon Koo went off injured simply after the primary quarter, and was clearly upset. Each one in all his teammates on the reserves bench went over and comforted him.
After weeks of warning and close to cluelessness from some groups right here, Japan are the all-action workforce this nation and event deserves. And do not depend them out in opposition to the Boks subsequent Sunday at Tokyo Stadium.
Japan 28 (Kenki Fukuoka 2, Kotaro Matsushima, Keita Inagaki tries; Yu Tamura four conversions)
Scotland 21 (Finn Russell, WP Nel, Zander Fagerson tries; Greig Laidlaw 2 conversions, Finn Russell conversion)