Less than a month after losing a thrilling IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy final to Samoa, Japan’s Under 20s have confirmed their place at the 2012 tournament by winning the Asian Junior Championships in Hong Kong.
Japan’s quest to return to the IRB Junior World Championship has fallen at the final hurdle in the last two years, with a 36-7 loss to Italy in 2010 and a 31-24 defeat at the death against Samoa in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi last month.
The Asian Junior Championship – the region’s qualifier for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 – also featured hosts Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Thailand with the four teams playing each other in a round robin format.
Japan ran out 54-29 winners over Sri Lanka on the opening day with wing Yuichiro Hattori scoring a brace, although coach Toshiaki Takasaki admitted “the level was not good enough” after their opponents scored three late tries, including two from interceptions.
The Japanese shut out their next opponents Thailand 69-0 with hooker Shunji Hayashi, number 8 Ryota Hasegawa and full back Yutaro Murai scoring a brace among the 11 tries scored in the win to leave coach Takasaki happy with the “much better performance”.
Japan therefore met Hong Kong – who had overcome Thailand 37-17 and Sri Lanka 38-14 – to determine the Asian Junior Championship winner of 2011 and it was no surprise when Asia’s top nation ran out 38-8 winners with wing Yuta Nakarai touching down twice.
Thailand also finished the Under 20 tournament on a high note with victory over Sri Lanka in a high-scoring game on Saturday, the 51-39 triumph ensuring they finished in third place behind champions Japan and runners up Hong Kong.