Scotland squeeze past Japan

Date published: June 25 2016

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Scotland were made to work hard before securing a narrow 21-16 victory over Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.

Just like last weekend's first Test, Japan held the upper hand early on, and led 13-9 at the break but Scotland progressively got into their stride though and took control of the game and the result secures them a 2-0 series victory over the Brave Blossoms.

As the scoreline suggests, this was an even affair and although Scotland secured victory thanks to the goalkicking of Henry Pyrgos and Greg Laidlaw, Japan scored the only try.

The first half was a stop-start affair characterised by several handling errors, especially from the visitors who stuttered with ball in hand during this period.

The match started at a frenetic pace with both sides giving the ball plenty of air before Pyrgos gave the visitors the lead via a penalty in the third minute, but Yu Tamara replied with a three-pointer of his own, from the kicking tee, shortly afterwards.

Pyrgos added his second penalty 10 minutes later before the game came alive in the 20th minute when the Brave Blossoms launched an attack from inside their half and were rewarded with the opening try, after the ball went through several pairs of hands. Shoukei Kin was prominent throughout and eventually offloaded to Kaito Shigeno who rounded off the score.

Tamura added the extras but Pyrgos narrowed the gap to four points by the half-hour mark and although both sides launched several attacks towards the end of the first half, neither side could add to their tally during this period.

The second half was a more subdued affair but both sides continued to concede penalties. Tamura added his third three-pointer in the 49th minute after Scotland were blown up for taking Shigeno out, off the ball, at a ruck.

The visitors had replaced Pyrgos with Laidlaw at half-time and he soon made his presence felt when he landed a penalty after Japan infringed at a ruck.

Laidlaw made it a one-point ball-game with his second successful penalty on the hour-mark and the visitors looked stronger during the game's latter stages.

The hosts were then penalised for illegal scrummaging in the 71st minute, and Laidlaw slotted another three-pointer from the kicking tee before securing victory with another penalty, three minutes before full-time, after Rikiya Matsuda was pinged for holding onto the ball on the ground.

Man of the Match: Several Japanese players worked themselves into the ground during the game, both defensively and going forwards. Amanaki Mafi tackled everything that moved and scrum-half Kaito Shigeno was a livewire. Both Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw arrived onto the pitch after 50-minutes and used all of his experience to galvanise the side together and his boot kicked them to victory.

Moment of the Match: Not often does this award get handed to the losing side but the only try of the game deserves this. Japan ran in a length of the field score showing miss passes, steps and pace all around. Almost every Japanese player was involved and Kaito Shigeno had the luck to finish off the score, much to the delight of the home crowd.   

Villain of the Match: Nothing nasty to report.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Try: Shigeno
Con: Tamura
Pens: Tamura 3

For Scotland:
Pens:
Pyrgos 3, Laidlaw 4

Japan: 15 Rikiya Matsuda, 14 Male Sa'u, 13 Tim Bennetts, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamara, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shoukei Kin, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeishi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Ryu Kolinasi Holani, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Mifi Poseti Paea

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Hardie, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Sean Lamont

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

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