Japan player ratings: Star back-rowers show their class as they keep Rugby World Cup hopes alive

Colin Newboult

Michael Leitch in action for Japan against Samoa in the Rugby World Cup,

Following a 28-22 victory over Samoa in the Rugby World Cup clash at the Stadium de Toulouse on Thursday, here are the player ratings for Japan.

15 Lomano Lemeki: Incredibly dangerous throughout the contest and made metres at will. It was an excellent display from the full-back, who was named the official man-of-the-match. 8

14 Kotaro Matsushima: When he did get the ball, Matsushima was electric and caused problems for the Samoan defence. 7

13 Dylan Riley: A smart centre who distributes well and put in a solid shift in Toulouse, but he wasn’t at his most influential. 6

12 Ryoto Nakamura: Didn’t have a whole lot of touches in attack but he absolutely put his body on the line in defence. 7

11 Jone Naikabula: The talent is obvious but it hasn’t quite happened for him in this tournament so far. Some good moments but they are few and far between. 6

10 Rikiya Matsuda: Controlled the game well for the most part and was accurate off the tee, which proved crucial in the end. 7

9 Naoto Saito: Came in as a late replacement for Yutaka Nagare and provided slick service from the base. Kicking game was also solid and put the Brave Blossoms in the right places. 7

Back-rowers step up

8 Kazuki Himeno (c): Typically excellent from Himeno, who carried hard and made 15 tackles without missing, while also claiming a turnover and a try. 8

7 Pieter Labuschagne: Took his try well and was a constant presence around the field, and was another to put in the hits in defence. 7

6 Michael Leitch: The star flanker rolled back the years with his display. Leitch is not quite the player of the past two World Cups, but this performance was reminiscent of those excellent campaigns. 8

5 Amato Fakatava: Worked hard but a few too many missed tackles in defence. Fakatava will have better days. 5

4 Jack Cornelsen: Solid in the set-piece as the lineout generally went pretty smoothly during the contest, with the maul proving to be a real weapon. 7

3 Jiwon Gu: Provided a relatively solid platform in the set-piece and did his bit on defence, making an impressive 11 tackles during his time on the field. 6

2 Shota Horie: Set-piece went well but his technique was poor in the tackle, which led to a yellow card. Fortunately for him, it did not cost his side. 5

1 Keita Inagaki: Akin to Gu, Inagaki was rock solid on his own ball in the scrum, while he was equally excellent in defence, missing just one of his 15 tackle attempts. 6

Replacements: The front-row enjoyed the ascendency in the scrum but the other substitutes missed a few too many tackles, which almost led to a dramatic late turnaround. 5

READ MORE: Japan edge 14-man Samoa to set up winner-takes-all showdown with Argentina