Japanese joy sets up final showdown with USA

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 27 June 2012
 Japanese joy sets up final showdown with USA
Yonghwi Kim and Rikiya Matsuda celebrate Japan's win over Georgia in the final Pool B match which puts them through to Saturday's final in Salt Lake City. Photo: David Brinton

Japan will play in its third straight Junior World Rugby Trophy final, this time against hosts United States after another exciting and close game – their third straight nail-biter of the tournament.

The Japanese, who held off a strong Georgia team 36-29 to advance, have been here before. The Brave Blossoms fell to Italy 36-7 in the 2010 JWRT final and narrowly lost to Samoa 31-24 in last year's championship.

So is third time the charm?

"In Japanese, third time is the best, too. We believe that," Japan head coach Ryuji Nakatake said. "Some of the players know the difficulty of playing in the final. It is not the same as the pool games."

Georgia had started the game brightly with an impressive try scored by Zura Dzneladze, which rattled the Japanese. The Lelos' winger scored after his team won the ball off a Japanese turnover. But that was the last of points for Georgia and the last mistake by Japan as the Brave Blossoms used an accurate kicking game and an impressive maul to hold possession and wear out the Lelos. Japan scored tries from Tsubasa Kizaki, Hayato Nishiuchi, Seiyu Kohara and Rikiya Matsuda to take a 29-5 lead into half-time.

Georgia were always in contention

The second half started identically with Dzneladze scoring a try down the right side keeping Georgia very much in contention. A solid conversion cut the Japanese advantage to 17. The Lelos continued to possess the ball, but the Brave Blossoms did enough to blunt the Georgian blows for all but the final five minutes.

That's when Elguja Surguladze scored. However, the momentum was short lived as Japan's Jumpei Ogura set up Ryota Hasegawa, who sidestepped two Georgians to restore the 17-point lead. The Lelos continued to fight to the end and Davit Khidesheli's two late tries — one was a highlight-reel run – gave the Japanese some anxious moments and the final whistle could not come soon enough.

In the final game of the day, the Americans defeated Russia 36-13 to clinch their second berth in a JWRT final and will try to be the first host nation to win the tournament. Mike Te'o scored two tries and full back Madison Hughes continued to close in on the JWRT points record as USA comfortably progressed to the final. Hughes has 72 points on the tournament – just 10 short of Romania's Stefan Patrascu's all-time record.

Hughes opened the game's scoring with a penalty kick. Russia missed an opportunity to take the lead, letting two penalty attempts go outside the posts. Scrum-half Nick Boyer cut across the field to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead. The Bears made things interesting by working the ball from the scrum to Alexander Romanov, who dove into the corner of the try zone for five points.

USA were too strong for Russia

Te'o finished off a long drive with a dive up the middle to help the Americans take command of the game. Just before the break, Tanner Barnes scored to give the U.S. a 24-5 lead.

Just eight minutes after the break, Te'o clinched the championship berth for the Eagles by scoring their fourth try, ensuring the bonus point.

Meanwhile, Tonga winger Hosea Saumaki continued his strong tournament, scoring three tries to lead the Sea Eagles to an easy 41-14 victory over Chile. Saumaki has scored a tournament-leading total of seven tries.

Saumaki had a lot of help from his friends as Kepueli Mafi, Manase Folau, Siaosi Manu and Wilson Lavelua all scored after long, sustaining drives. Lavelue's score late in the first may have been the most impressive as the prop showed off his speed in cutting through Chile's desperate defence.

Tonga beat Chile while Canada outplayed Zimbabwe

The Condors hung in tough despite a 29-7 half-time deficit. Substitute Tomas Ianiszewski scored his team-leading third try of the tournament to double his team's total in the 46th minute, but that was as close as Chile got.

Earlier in the day, Canada outclassed Zimbabwe in the opening match to cruise to a 66-45 victory over a Sables team missing their captain, Justin Coles.

Canada's Jon West got things going by scooping up a grubber in the first minute. Connor McCann, Taylor Paris, Clayton Meeres and Cam Stones all quickly found the try zone soon after as Canada built a 35-0 lead in just 11 minutes of play.

The Sables eventually found their legs, keeping the Canucks off the scoreboard for the next 18 minutes while punching in a couple of scores themselves. Zimbabwe forwards Tyran Fagan and Thabani Ndaba finished off two strong drives to cut the lead to 21 points.

However, Canada restored their five-try advantage on McCann's and Stones' second scores. Zimbabwe kept itself in the hunt by Victor Mushoriwa's try just before the half-time whistle.

Murray Rugby Park all ready for the final

In the second half Canada kept the pressure on as Stones, Gradyn Bowd, and Jon West all scored tries to take an enormous 66-28 lead. The Sables' showed heart, scoring three late ties.

Prior to the 18.00 (local time) final on Saturday, play starts at 12.00 with the seventh-place match where both Zimbabwe and Russia will be looking for their first victory of the tournament. An improving Canada side will face Chile in the fifth-place game at 14.00. Two bruising teams in Tonga and Georgia will play for third place at 16.00. All matches will be held at Murray Rugby Park. All-day tickets cost $5 and all games will be streamed live here.