Scotland cruised to a 45-10 bonus-point win against Japan in Gloucester on Wednesday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
It was always going to be difficult for Japan to lift themselves for a second big World Cup match, just four days after beating the Springboks. But they gave it a good go, and may have got closer to the Scots had they shown more composure on attack and more discipline on defence. Ayumu Goromaru also missed two penalty goals, while the loss of No 8 Amanaki Mafi to injury early in the second half was a big blow.
Fatigue was always going to be an issue for Japan and it's no coincidence that all five of Scotland's tries came in the second half.
Unlike the Boks, who turned down five shots at goal during their shock defeat last Saturday, Scotland took the three points when they were offer.
Greig Laidlaw kicked four penalties, including two early on that gave his side a 6-0 lead.
Japan hit back in slightly controversial circumstances. Goromaru kicked a penalty to touch, and while the assistant referee believed it had gone over the deadball line, referee John Lacey overruled him and the Brave Blossoms had an attacking 5m lineout. The ball went to the tail-end and a well-executed driving maul resulted in a converted try to Mafi.
But Japanese indiscipline would cost them again, with Laidlaw slotting another two penalties to put his side 12-7 ahead at the end of the third quarter. Kotaro Matsushima was then yellow-carded for a professional foul at a ruck when Scotland were on the attack, with Laidlaw off target for the first time.
The 14-man Brave Blossoms strangely turned down a shot at goal, opting to kick for touch and set up another maul only to knock the ball on. When they were awarded a penalty in a similar position soon after, Goromaru went for goal, and missed.
Japan did well not to concede any points while Matsushima was off, but failed to turn long periods of pressure into points. Mafi tried to get over the line NFL-style, when there were men out wide, only to be held up just short.
Scotland pushed hard for a try in the last play of the half, but outstanding Japanese defence kept them out, with Tommy Seymour being bundled into touch by a big Goromaru hit.
Goromaru then reduced the deficit to two with a penalty early in the second half, following a strong run from Mafi, who broke through two tackles. Unfortunately, the No 8 was injured when he was brought to ground and left the field on a stretcher.
The Scots responded with their first try through John Hardie, who did well to keep the ball inside the field of play with a one-handed offload and then get back to his feet to help finish off the attack.
Goromaru missed the chance to claw three points back for Japan, when his penalty attempt came off the post, before Mark Bennett scored Scotland's second try to make it 24-10.
Seymour then put the result beyond doubt when he intercepted a poor pass and raced away to score.
By this time the Japanese looked exhausted, and it was no surprise when they conceded another two tries, to Bennett and Finn Russell.
To their credit, the Brave Blossoms finished the game on the Scottish tryline, but lost the ball forward.
Scotland – Tries: John Hardie, Mark Bennett (2), Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell. Conversions: Greig Laidlaw (4). Penalties: Laidlaw (4).
Japan – Try: Amanaki Mafi. Conversion: Ayumu Goromaru. Penalty: Goromaru.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Maitland.
Japan – 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Male Sau, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 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 Kazu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Shoji Ito, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Karne Hesketh.
Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images