What a game! The Secret Fan’s Japan v Scotland match report

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Amidst a chaotic few days that saw Rugby World Cup 2019™ overshadowed by Typhoon Hagibis, Japan’s worst storm in decades and dozens of lives tragically lost, rugby proved a shining light amongst the damage.

Carried by their country, Japan’s inspired 28-21 win against Scotland was arguably one of the greatest games of all time, as the underdogs topped their group by playing a scintillating brand of rugby as they dumped their rivals out before the quarter-finals.

After an incredible effort by the ground team and a touch-and-go week, the match was on.

Venatour were at the game and our secret fan enjoyed a game to remember:

It was fantastic being in the Yokohama Stadium last evening. We were very lucky to have tickets for what was an amazing game, played in front of 67,666 excited supporters over 80% of whom were passionately cheering the home team. It was especially memorable given Typhoon Hagibis passing over the area 24 hours before. Fortunately, the impact on the immediate area was not too bad bar some slight flooding, but areas to the west, north and north-east of Tokyo were affected much worse. The only time the stadium was quiet was for a minute’s silence before the anthems.

My expectations for the game had been high as both teams look to play exciting brands of free-flowing rugby. I was not disappointed. Japan probably were a bit nervous at the start at allowed Scotland to score first. Finn Russell crossed the try line surprisingly easily and Scotland were leading 7-0 after only 7 minutes. But Japan then began to play their brand of fast moving, precision passing, keeping the ball in hand and were leading 21-7 at half-time, which was then increased to 28-7 5 minutes into the second half. Japan were irresistible and their left winger, Kenti Fukuoka, caused havoc every time he got the ball. He scored 2 tries himself and had a major assist for another so thoroughly deserved to be man-of-the-match.

Japan had needed only 2 points from the game to win the group, while Scotland needed to win the game by a margin of more than 8 points to qualify instead of Japan (Ireland having already qualified). They now had potentially a bonus win so were high and dry; Scotland now needed to score 4 converted tries and a penalty to stay in the tournament. They did respond magnificently getting 2 converted tries before the end, causing the home supporters much angst and restoring some national pride (Jamie Ritchie had a storming game at no. 7), but it was not enough. Japan now play South Africa in Tokyo on Sunday, a re-run of their epic encounter in Brighton in the 2015 World Cup that Japan famously won 34 v 32.

I have to say a word about the refereeing. This was the first game we’d seen without a card being shown. The NZ referee was surprisingly lenient, and Jonny Gray wasn’t penalised at all for what I thought was a high challenge which probably merited a yellow. We watched Wales v Fiji during the week on TV and were amazed at the way the TMO appeared to be telling the ‘on field’ ref what his decision should be. Is that right? When spectating, we don’t get that input.

All the quarter finals should be tight – England v Australia and New Zealand v Ireland are on Saturday, with Wales v France preceding the Japan v South Africa game on Sunday. I will be attending England v Australia and Wales v France in Oita at the south-western end of Japan on Kyushu. We are currently flying to Nagasaki from Tokyo.

Last week’s visits to the much more rural Takayama and Kanazawa were a joy, including our first experience of Geisha entertainment – which is not what some of you will be thinking!

The tournament is set up for a fantastic knockout stage. The All Blacks are favourites to win after beating South Africa on the first weekend and many think those two teams will be the finalists. I fancy Japan to beat South Africa, England to beat Australia and Wales to beat France with NZ stopping Ireland. That would set up England v New Zealand and Wales v Japan for the semis.

What a tournament!”


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