Japan scored three tries to defeat the USA 28-18 in the last pool game of the World Cup in Gloucester on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The result sees the Brave Blossoms end the tournament with three victories out of four matches, their best showing at a World Cup yet, while the USA exit Pool B with four defeats.
Irish-born flyhalf AJ MacGinty drew first blood for the USA with a penalty, after Japan failed to clear their lines from the kick-off.
Eddie Jones’s men, though, rebounded quickly with a magnificent team try. Flyhalf Kosei Ono made a break from inside his own half, stabbed a grubber past the cover defence and recollected the ball on the 5m line. With the USA defenders still tracking back, they went wide and Kotaro Matsushima finished off in the corner.
The USA hit back immediately, patiently taking the ball through the phases, which created an overlap on the outside for flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya to run in untouched. MacGinty couldn’t convert.
Japan started to dominate at the breakdown area and following a turnover by Yoshikazu Fujita, they worked their way towards the USA tryline. They tried a maul from close range, and Fujita broke away to score the second.
Ayumu Goromaru converted both tries and added a penalty as Japan led 17-8 at the break.
The second half was more evenly contested, with defences tighter. Goromaru and MacGinty traded penalties to maintain the nine-point deficit. However, the USA were reduced to 14 players when loosehead prop Eric Fry was pinged for repeated infringement, and this ignited another Japan onslaught.
Replacement loose forward Amanaki Mafi rewarded Japan’s sustained pressure with a try, stretching their lead to 14 points.
With the clock winding down, USA captain Chris Wyles went over for a converted try to set up a nervy finish. But Japan calmly withstood another attack before winning a kickable penalty, which Goromaru slotted to draw the curtain on Japan’s fairytale tournament.
Japan – Tries: Kotaro Matsushima, Yoshikazu Fujita, Amanaki Mafi. Conversions: Ayumu Goromaru (2). Penalty: Goromaru (3).
USA – Try: Takudzwa Ngwenya, Chris Wyles. Conversion: AJ MacGinty. Penalties: MacGinty (2).
Japan – 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Yoshikazu Fujita, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kotaro Matsushima, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Justin Ives, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Karne Hesketh.
USA – 15 Chris Wyles (c), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Zach Test, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Zach Fenoglio, 1 Eric Fry.
Subs: 16 Phil Thiel, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20 John Quill, 21 Danny Barrett, 22 Niku Kruger, 23 Folau Niua.
Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images