Japan coach John Kirwan has been looking for his players to deliver a complete performance in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations as they build towards Rugby World Cup 2011 and he finally got it with their 111-0 defeat of the United Arab Emirates on Friday.
In perfect conditions on a beautifully manicured pitch at 7he Sevens in Dubai, Japan came out firing to put the result beyond doubt from literally the opening whistle and make it 15 bonus point wins from 15 in the Top 5 and confirm a fourth successive title with a match to spare.
The Brave Blossoms took just three minutes to score the first of 17 tries, James Arlidge touching down the beginning of what would be an impressive 29-point haul for the fly half.
A number of other players also reached double figures for Japan with centre Ryan Nicholas scoring a hat-trick, Shaun Webb and Kosuke Endo grabbing a brace and wing Takeshi Usuzuki coming within a whisker of matching Endo’s A5N record of five tries against Korea last year.
Go Aruga, Justin Ives, Ryukoliniasi Holani, Takashi Kikutani and Hitoshi Ono, named captain for the match as another Japanese player to have experienced personal loss during the earthquake and tsunami in March, also touched down in the win.
“I am pleased with the performance, not just the result but more so that we kept our structure throughout the game,” admitted Kirwan. “The UAE has really improved over the last two seasons, but we really hit our straps tonight.
“Before tonight’s game we were a long way off from where we wanted to be, but tonight’s result will give us confidence to keep working hard as a team. I am very happy with the team’s attitude but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Race on for second place
Ono added: “Tonight our team motto was ‘Gaman’ which means patience in Japanese. I am from Fukushima and I was very honoured that JK gave me the chance to lead the team.
“We knew that if we were patient our results would come. By being patient as a team we were able to score even more points. I hope that tonight’s result will bring some joy to the people of Fukushima and all Japan and that they will take hope from this. With patience and courage, things will get better.”
Japan have accrued 18 points from their three matches in 2011 to secure the title, but the race is still on to finish second with Hong Kong and the UAE knowing that whoever emerges victorious from their meeting will claim the honour for the first time.
Hong Kong currently lead the way with 11 points, three more than the United Arab Emirates who have already achieved their primary target of safeguarding their Top 5 status for a second year by upsetting Kazakhstan and drawing with Sri Lanka.
The battle to avoid the drop has seemingly also been decided following Kazakhstan’s 34-18 defeat of Sri Lanka in Almaty on Saturday. Kazakhstan knew anything other than victory would relegate them to Division I after a disappointing campaign that saw them also lose to Hong Kong and Japan.
However, the 2010 runners up made no mistake this time against Top 5 newcomers Sri Lanka, whose only hope of staying among the elite nations is to cause a massive upset and avoid defeat against champions Japan in Colombo this weekend.
First title for Qatar
The curtain raiser to Japan’s rout of the United Arab Emirates was the Division IV final between Qatar and Lebanon. Qatar remain unbeaten in Test rugby after following up their win over Jordan to defeat Lebanon 29-14 to win the title.
Former Arabian Gulf fly half Paul Beard was again the hero for Qatar with 19 points from the boot through a drop goal, four penalties and two conversions, while Shane Kelly scored his third try in two matches and native Qatari Al Malik Mubarak his first.
Beard’s opposite number Karim Jammal was once again the star for Lebanon, adding a try and two conversions to his impressive haul in the win over Uzbekistan earlier in the week to end the tournament with 33 points.
Top seeds Jordan, meanwhile, bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Qatar to edge Uzbekistan 17-14 in the third place play-off thanks to replacement prop Oday Warayat’s try in the dying minutes.
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