Planet Rugby

Japan claw Canada back

25th September 2007 18:54

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Kosuke Endo v Canada

Try time!: Winger Kosuke Endo goes over for Japan's first try of the match

Neither Japan nor Canada will come away from the World Cup with a win, after they fought out a thrilling 12-12 draw in Bordeaux on Tuesday.

Well, that's not strictly true - Canada could yet claim a win against Australia. But for both teams this was a do-or-die affair, and the finale was every bit that tense.

Japan took an early lead with a brilliant individual try from Kosuke Endo in the first half, but Canada's pack fought their way into the game and tries from hooker Pat Riordan and an opportunist score from wing DTH van der Merwe were enough to seal the deal, or so it seemed.

Japan rallied, and spent the final ten minutes plugging away at the Canada line, with Koji Taira scoring the crucial try four minutes into injury time, and Shotaro Onishi landing a nerveless conversion to claim a share of the spoils in one of the games of the tournament.

It was always going to be a close encounter between these two sides desperate to end their winless World Cup campaign on a high.

With Canada still to face the might of the Wallabies on Saturday - for the Cherry Blossoms, it was a last throw of the dice as they would ultimately bid farewell to their loyal fans in France.

Japan's next stop should be the craps table in Las Vegas if they are going to continue throwing the dice as well as they did against the Canucks.

However, no betting man would have predicted this result - especially with Canada winding down the clock with mere seconds remaining and a seven-point intact.

Japan had fought back admirably after Van der Merwe's converted try in the 65th minute, and the crowd could sense they were in for something special with ten minutes left until full-time.

The Cherry Blossoms bashed their way towards their opposition's tryline on several occasions, but were unable to breach the committed Canadian defence.

Hats off to the Canucks for never giving an inch as the Japanese used every means possible through their forwards and the backs to only fall just short of the chalk dust.

Japan went left, right and even down the middle - but the Canadian brick wall stood strong.

Canucks' centre Dave Spicer did well to stay on his feet in his tackle on a Japanese runner who failed to release the ball, and duly won his side a crucial penalty - one would have thought a match-winning one with the celebrations already taking place amongst the players.

Wing James Pritchard - responsible for Van der Merwe's touchline conversion - slammed the ball into touch and the game, as it seemed, was all but won by Canada.

However, a sliced kick from lacklustre fly-half Ryan Smith just outside his own 22 enabled Japan one last line-out and, with that, one last shot at snatching a draw.

With time officially up on the clock, the ball was thrown to the reliable Luke Thompson who put in a towering display in the line-outs for Japan throughout the match.

Again the forwards, like a lawnmower, powered their way up the pitch until full-back Go Aruga had no other option to put in a chip and chase for Taira.

The bounce favoured Canada skipper Morgan Williams who slapped the ball over the deadball line, crashing into the advertising board in the process. Referee Jonathan Kaplan called for the TMO JoŽl Jutge to make the call.

With four minutes already into injury time, It was decided that Williams had deliberately taken the ball out of play and a penalty was rewarded to Japan. Again, the Cherry Blossoms were handed another lifeline to pull off an improbable draw.

This time however, the Canada defenders were spread to their limits as Bryce Robins fired a long pass to his right for Taira to beat the last man in defence and dive over to send the crowd into raptures.

The result helped Japan avoid their 14th successive defeat in World Cups, and denied Canada the chance to maintain their record of posting a win in every tournament for which they have qualified. Unless, as we said, they beat Australia

Even though far too many unforced errors from both sides made the first half a dire affair, Japan still managed to dominate in all facets of play from the kick-off.

Canada were quite literally shut out in the first 40 minutes of shuddering hits from the Japanese that forced the Canucks into making life extremely difficult for themselves.

The Canada backline was non-existent with Smith providing little, if not any, direction to his backs.

His opposite number Robins on the other hand made amends from his shocker against Wales with a more telling display all round.

Endo scored his blistering try with a solo run to the line, with ten minutes of the game gone, after the Japanese had won the ball from a Canadian line-out.

Onishi missed the conversion attempt, however, and Japan then had to withstand long spells of pressure from Canada's forwards before reaching half-time 5-0 ahead.

Canada came out firing after the break and it seemed the tables had turned with the Japanese now putting themselves under immense pressure from a more determined Canucks outfit.

The pressure finally told in the 49th minute when Canada hooker Pat Riordan, who earlier was sent to the sin bin, barged over the line.

Smith missed the conversion kick and Canada then had a try disallowed by the TMO when Williams tried to touch down his own kick ahead.

Williams set up Canada's try in the 65th minute when he opted for a tap penalty and lobbed a kick to the unmarked Van der Merwe out on the left and the winger went over.

Man of the match: Japan are blessed with dynamic wingers and Kosuke Endo had another fine run on the right touchline for his team. It's a shame this will be the last time we will see the Toyota Blitz winger quite literally blitz his way around defenders at this Word Cup. Centre Shotaro Onishi saved the day with his match-leveling kick in the 84th minute and was instrumental on attack as well as defence. For Canada, veteran lock Mike James showed some valuable experience throughout and was key to Canada's lift in the second half. But our vote goes to one of Japan's forwards who's surname could be mistaken for that of an Irishman. In fact, he's neither - New Zealand-born flankerPhilip O'Reilly was the driving force behind Japan's brutal attack on the Canucks' line and wore the defence thin with bulldozing runs every chance he was given. The no-nonsense Cherry Blossom led from the front in first-time tackles that left a couple of Canadians clutching their ribs afterwards.

Moment of the match: The final conversion kick of the game of course!

Villain of the match: The stamp on a Japanese player by hooker Pat Riordan was uncalled for. But the Canucks will no doubt point their finger at referee Jonathan Kaplan's watch for allowing four minutes into full-time that culminated in the thrilling draw.

The scorers:

For Canada:

Tries: Riordan, Van der Merwe

Con: Pritchard

For Japan:

Tries: Endo, Taira

Yellow card: Riordan (37, Canada, stamping)

Canada: 15 Mike Pyke, 14 Dth van der Merwe, 13 Craig Culpan, 12 Dave Spicer, 11 James Pritchard, 10 Ryan Smith, 9 Morgan Williams (c), 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Adam Kleeberger, 6 Colin Yukes, 5 Mike James, 4 Mike Burak, 3 Jon Thiel, 2 Pat Riordan, 1 Rod Snow

Replacements: 16 Mike Pletch, 17 Dan Pletch, 18 Scott Franklin, 19 Josh Jackson, 20 Mike Webb, 21 Ed Fairhurst, 22 Justin Mensah-Coker

Japan: 15 Go Aruga, 14 Kosuke Endo, 13 Yuta Imamura, 12 Shotaro Onishi, 11 Christian Loamanu, 10 Bryce Robins, 9 Tomoki Yoshida, 8 Takuro Miuchi (c), 7 Philip O'Reilly, 6 Hare Makiri, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Tomokazu Soma, 2 Yuji Matsubara, 1 Tatsukichi Nishiura

Replacements: 16 Taku Inokuchi, 17 Ryo Yamamura, 18 Luatangi Samurai Vatuvei, 19 Hajime Kiso, 20 Chulwon Kim, 21 Koji Taira, 22 Hirotoki Onozawa.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

Touch judges: Lyndon Bray, Bryce Lawrence

Television match official: JoŽl Jutge

By Dave Morris

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