15th Place Play-off: Japan 44-8 USA

(IRB.COM) Saturday 21 June 2008
By Hywel Roberts
From Wrexham
 15th Place Play-off: Japan 44-8 USA
Japan centre Aisea Havea dives in to score a try - Photo: Huw Evans

Japan finished the tournament on a high with a six-try performance that earned them a 15th-place finish and also provided an ideal platform to launch their campaign as hosts for the IRB Junior World Championship 2009.

The Japanese started brightly at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham on Saturday, with fly half Shingo Yoshida’s kicking testing the USA defence in a match both sides were keen to win to secure a first victory in the inaugural tournament.


Despite having captain Michael Leitch sent to the sin-bin in the seventh minute, Japan were rewarded for their attacking approach when inside centre Aisea Havea scored an excellent solo try, converted by scrum half Shuhei Oshima.

A second try was not far behind, outside centre Yasutaka Sasakura capping a well-worked move to make the score 12-0 in the 16th minute, with Oshima converting to add the extras.

Scrum half Sean Treacy reduced the deficit with a penalty for the young Eagles, but Japan were soon back in control, wing Jamie Blackie crossing for their third try on 34 minutes after the Japanese had stolen a scrummage with a powerful drive. Japan entered the interval with a 19-3 lead after a failed conversion attempt.

After the restart, Oshima added a penalty and Yoshida kicked a drop goal to increase their lead to 25-3.

A superb cross-kick from man of the match Oshima then allowed right wing Takamasa Okubo to score Japan’s fourth try, which Oshima converted.

USA scored a consolation try through inside centre Nate Ebner in the 79th minute, but Japan were not finished yet, responding with an unconverted try from second row Keisuke Matsuda.

Japan’s final score came via full back Daisuke Natsui, who finished off a move started in their own 22 that showed excellent handling and vision from their backline.

Replacement Ryohei Yamanaka added the conversion to complete a resounding victory.


Japan Head Coach Masahiro Kunda: “We saved our best display until the last game and our forward effort made it possible for us to bring our backs into play and play in the Japanese style we like. I am really proud of the boys. They are all students and the experience will do all of them good towards improving their game. The tournament organisation and refereeing has been excellent.”

Japan Captain Michael Leitch: “We’re delighted with the win. The tournament has been a huge experience for us and shows the standard of the top-class countries, which we aspire to.”

USA Head Coach Salty Thompson: “This is the best age-grade group out of the USA and we have tried to build on last year’s tournament in Belfast. There was some fatigue out there and unfortunate injuries that affected our performance. Japan played a well-structured game and great credit goes to them for their great display. We have had a fantastic time in north Wales.”

USA Captain Scott Lavalla: “The boys were tired after a long tournament and we now know what top-notch rugby is and competing against top-class opposition. We know we have a lot of work to do to ensure we qualify for next year’s tournament, which obviously we want to do. I would like to express my thanks for the tremendous welcome we have received in north Wales. We have made many friends and the hospitality has been excellent.”

**Listen to live match commentary of the third place play-off between Wales and South Africa from 17:00 UK time and the Final between New Zealand and England from 19:00 on Sunday, 22 June on this website!**

**Finals day tickets are on sale at just £2 for children and £8 for adults. Fans are advised to purchase tickets for the Liberty Stadium finals day well in advance of kick-off. The Liberty Stadium Box Office is open Friday until 6pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm and from 12 noon on Sunday. Fans can also pre-book by calling 08700 400 004.**