Japan stun Tonga in Sendai

(IRB.COM) Sunday 15 June 2008
 Japan stun Tonga in Sendai
Japan overcame Tonga 35-13 in Sendai

Japan stunned Tonga in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, beating the islanders 35-13 at Sendai City's Yurtec Stadium for their first victory in the tournament.

John Kirwan's side enjoyed a strong warm-up to the event against the Classic All Blacks and impressed on the first match day against Australia A. This victory, however, finally gives the former All Black tangible proof of the huge advances being made with the Cherry Blossoms since he took over.

The Japanese pack, impressive against Australia A a week ago, fronted up well to the muscular Tongans and showed sharp discipline and tactical nous early on to lay the foundations for what was to prove a comfortable victory.

Pierre Hola's penalties twice gave the Tongans an early lead but the Japanese hit back on each occasion through James Arlidge, who added two more late in the half for a 12-6 half time lead.

Arlidge punished some Tongan indiscipline at the start of the second half before the Japanese cut loose, flanker Takashi Kikutani's try giving them a deserved 20-6 lead.

On 50 minutes Tonga hit back through their number 8 Lotu Filipine and although Hola converted the try to narrow the score to 20-13 the Japanese again showed great enterprise, fitness and most of all attacking endeavour to extend their lead twice in four minutes through wing Hirotoki Onozawa and full back Shaun Webb.

With the game won at 30-13, the Japanese added a fourth try in the dying minutes through Bryce Robins to make the final score 35-13.

The Cherry Blossoms next face Fiji in Tokyo on 22 June.

In the weekend's other IRB Pacific Nations Cup matches Australia A and New Zealand Maori were both made to work hard for their second wins. The second-string Wallabies beat Samoa 20-15 in Apia, while the Maori needed a try in the last minute by lock Jason Eaton to beat Fiji 11-7 in Lautoka.