The New Zealand of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2013 came to an entertaining conclusion with the Hurricanes Development team running out 73-43 winners over Junior Japan in an 18-try fest at the Community Trust Domain on Sunday.
The match often resembled a training run rather than a competitive encounter with loose defence and soft turnovers a constant theme, as both sides gave away a number of easy tries, many from broken play and several that started at one end and finished at the other.
Played in cool but dry conditions with little wind, 10 of the tries – five apiece – came in the first half which ended with the Hurricanes Development team leading their Japanese visitors 31-29.
From the moment second row Shahn Eru went over for the opening try in the fifth minute it was very much tit-for-tat scoring with fly half James Marshall, wing Joe Hill, second row Tom Hughes and centre Ope Peleseuma scoring for the hosts.
The individual star of the match was electric Junior Japan left wing Kenki Fukuoka, who scored a hat-trick of tries, including the score of the match midway through the first half when he accelerated into the backline after a scrum near halfway and put the afterburners on to score under the posts.
Fukuoka was part of a slick Japanese backline that was dangerous with ball in hand. Sparked by fly half Takahiro Yamasawa, centres Yasuki Hayashi and Vaihu Tonishio and right wing Takaaaki Nakazuru were also rewarded with tries. Hooker Atushi Sakate scored their other first-half try.
After the break, the Hurricanes Development team showed their intent to play more direct, patient rugby and were rewarded with two tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half through Marshall and prop Chris Eves.
The Japanese came back with a second try for Fukuoka, but that proved to be as close as the visitors would get as the Hurricanes Development team pulled clear with second try for Hill sandwiched between a brace of tries for flanker Callum Gibbins.
Fukuoka re-gathered a kick and chase and ran away to score his third try with 10 mins to go, but the Hurricanes Development team had the final say when Eru waltzed through a gap to score his second and his side’s 11th try.
The Pacific Rugby Cup will conclude with a series involving the core teams in the build up to the November tours to Europe. Fiji Warriors currently top the standings with 14 points in their quest for a fifth successive title, four points clear of Samoa A. Junior Japan now have three points with Tonga yet to register a point.
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