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Scotland too strong for Japan

09th November 2013 16:21

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Kenki Fukuoka Japan v Scotland 2013

Kenki Fukuoka: Kept the Scots busy

Scotland held off a spirited performance from Japan before claiming a 42-17 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday.

A brace of tries from Tommy Seymour, and scores from Greig Laidlaw, Al Dickinson and Sean Lamont cancelled out a wonderful double from the visitors' speedster, Kenki Fukuoka.

The Brave Blossoms imposed themselves well, with the wonderfully quick ball they generated, and the fleetness of their outside backs causing the Scots problems in defence.

And indeed, they twice clawed themselves back to within a single point of the Scots, showing discipline and resilience to score a couple of excellent tries.

It was, however, a disjointed opening quarter, with neither side able to string many phases together.

The hosts looked rusty on their first outing as a team since June, and static attacking play combined with knock-ons and errors stunted their attack.

Laidlaw put the Scots on the board with two penalties, as the Scottish scrum dominated their much lighter opponents, forcing a multitude of Japanese infringements.

And things were looking ominous for the Cherry Blossoms as the men in blue started to click out wide, and gaps appeared in midfield. Sean Maitland burst into the 22, before the ball was recycled well, and several phases later, Seymour took advantage of stretched Japanese defence to loop around Jackson and score in the corner.

The scrum-half failed to add the extras, though, and full-back Ayumu Goromaru got the visitors on the board with a penalty late in the first half.

The Scots led 11-3 at the break, having had a Lamont try disallowed by the TMO thanks to obstruction from Tim Swinson, but the Japanese came flying out of the blocks in the second-half to shell-shock their hosts.

Laidlaw was penalised for a squint feed to a scrum on halfway, and the visitors - in keeping with the verve and pace they so favour in attack - went for a quick tap.

Great handling up the left-hand-side sent Fukuoka - who had threatened several times in the opening forty - scampering round and under the posts. Goromaru's kick reduced the deficit to a single point.

Scotland responded well to this setback, though, with an opportunist try from Laidlaw as he sniped over from two metres out to extend the lead.

But back came Japan again, and in some considerable style. Brutalised in the scrum all afternoon, the Cherry Blossoms drove Scotland back on their own ball, and won possession against the head.

Their speed of play came to the fore once again, as Goromaru made a clean break through the middle. He was hauled down just metres short of the line by three defenders, but his offload to Fukuoka was perfect, and the winger had a run-in for his second.

Once again, though, Scotland persevered, and were rewarded as Seymour was set free by a fine Jackson pass for his second try after the forwards had sucked in the Japanse defence.

Now, the Scots had well and truly hit their stride, and when number eight Ryu Holani was sin-binned for slowing the ball down, the hosts pressed home their numerical advantage.

The industrious Tim Swinson was held up over the line, but moments later, excellent sleight of hand from Ross Ford and Jackson saw Al Dickinson crashing his way over from 20 metres out.

That proved to be the killer blow for the Japanse, who shipped two further tries from Weir and Lamont - both of which were verified by the TMO - and lost Goromaru to the sin-bin for the final three minutes.

All in all, a pleasing first outing for Scott Johnson's men, with the performance of the back-row, aided by the outstanding Swinson, proving major positives given the challenges that lie ahead in the coming weeks.

Man of the Match: There were a few candidates, but none more impressive than Tim Swinson. Despite his lack of size at second-row, the Glasgow Warriors man was excellent in the loose, making big hits aplenty and always making yards with ball in hand. With this showing, he be in real contention to face South Africa next week.

Moment of the Match: The beginning of the end for Japan was marked by Dickinson's tidy score. There are few finer sights in rugby than a prop barrelling his way over the line from distance.

Villain of the Match: Ryu Holani's yellow-card contributed heftily to Japan's downfall, with the Cherry Blossoms shipping two tries while down to fourteen men.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Seymour 2, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Weir, Lamont
Con: Laidlaw 2, Weir
Pen: Laidlaw 2

For Japan:
Tries: Fukuoka 2
Con: Goromaru 2
Pen: Goromaru

Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (c), 6 Al Strokosch, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Richie Gray, 20 John Barclay, 21 Henry Prygos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Toshiaki Hirose (c), 13 Male Sau, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shinya Makabe, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Aoki, 17 Yusuke Nagae, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Takashi Kikutani, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yoshikazu Fujita.

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

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