TOKYO, Japan 22 – Asian champions Japan won their last warm-up game for the Rugby World Cup next month when they defeated the United States 20-14 in a test match in Tokyo on Sunday.
But moments after a missed conversion the Americans went in front 7-5, winger Kevin Swiryn snatching the ball off a kick and crossing the Japanese tryline, with stand-off Nese Malifa converting.
One minute later the lead changed hands again, with the US conceding a penalty for obstruction and Ryan Nicholas cashing in to put Japan 8-7 up.
Nonetheless it was the US who went in 14-8 ahead at half time after Swiryn seized on a Japanese error to make a long solo run from midfield for a converted try.
© AFP Japan will play France, New Zealand, Tonga and Canada in Pool A
© AFP Kazuhiro Nogi
But those were the Americans’ last points. In the second half, Japan mounted a series of mauls close to the US line until skipper Takashi Kikutani touched down in the 54th minute and substitute stand-off Shaun Webb converted.
Winger Takehisa Usuzuki was at the end of a five-pass move to add another try in the 66th minute.
“It was a so-and-so game, but we won,” said Japan coach John Kirwan. “We defended very well. We couldn’t play well in set-pieces in the first half, but we were able to level up in the second half. We played fast, we kept the ball.”
Kikutani added: “It was a game that we couldn’t play well in set-pieces and we made mistakes to give them chances for a try. That’s all. I think we refreshed ourselves at half time.”
Meanwhile, US coach Eddie O’Sullivan said: “It was a good, tough game. I think Japan played very well, maybe they were disappointed that they didn’t probably score more points.”
“But we defended very well particularly in the second half. If we would have more time with the ball in the second half, maybe we could have won the game, but we spent too much time without the ball,” he added.
In the World Cup, Japan will play France, powerhouse New Zealand, Tonga and Canada in Pool A, while the United States will play Australia, Ireland, Italy and Russia in Pool C.