Do or die for Brave Blossoms from here on in
REACTION: Facing an experienced Test side will always be a challenge for a team like Japan and sometimes the Brave Blossoms need a bit of luck as well, said their coach Jamie Joseph.
Although going down 12-34 to England on Sunday, Japan made the English work hard for every point and it certainly wasn’t a one-way affair.
Joseph, speaking to the media at the post-match press conference, felt that England were sometimes surprised by Japans’ kicking game and the opportunities they created.
“I’m incredibly proud of the guys in terms of how they tried to execute our plan. There were parts of the game that surprised England in terms of the kicking game, we put them under a lot of pressure and created opportunities for us.
“What we learned from that is the opportunities we created, we didn’t take them. We made too many mistakes.
“They are an experienced test rugby side and over the course of time they were able to wear us down. That’s the nature of our game at the highest level. It’s disappointing for us, the boys put a lot of emotional effort into this week.
“We dealt with a lot of pressure, and that’s going to be crucial leading into the next two matches against Samoa and Argentina.”
But Joseph was under no illusion that they faced a strong side and made too many mistakes.
“We just made too many mistakes under the pump. A team like us from Japan, to take on a powerhouse like England, we’ve got to get all of these things right and we just didn’t do that. We paid the consequences for it.
“Guys made mistakes but we’re playing one of the best teams in the world at the World Cup. The players did their best to execute the plan, I thought it surprised England and created a little bit of pressure on them, but they’re a good side so they were able to adapt and come back at us.”
The try by England captain Courtney Lawes clearly caught the coach off-guard, as it did the rest of the team after an overthrow at the line-out.
“That’s a first for me, man. Wow.
“We just didn’t have any luck. We blew one here with an overthrow at the lineout, there was a juggling act there by Joe. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck as well, we never got any of that today. I guess that was a fair try. What more can you say really?”
Brave Blossoms wing Kotaro Matsushima agreed with his coach.
“At that time we stopped playing, we thought it was a knock-on. We should have just kept playing.
“That definitely changed the game. It’s not them, it’s more us. We have to just learn from that and keep going.”
The England back three made things especially difficult for Japan, says Mtsushima.
“We thought they were going to kick to our backfield. That’s pretty hard to defend, to defend the whole field because they kicked to right field and left field.”
“After today’s game a couple of boys will be more confident. It wasn’t a bad-looking loss, so we just keep going and play with confidence in the next two games and focus on the Samoa game.”
Wing Lomano Lemeki felt his side was still in it, even late in the match, trailing by 12-27.
“We felt we were right in it. Even in the 65th minute when they scored it was 27-12 at that time, I still felt we were in it. We felt the momentum was changing.
“Matsushima made a break, we got all the way down there and we dropped the ball in their 22. Little things like that, against big teams – especially tier-one teams – if you don’t finish those chances, it just deflates your team. Especially our forwards, they were under the pump against a good pack.
“First half we had three chances, we just couldn’t execute and I think that’s how they came back to hit us in the end.”
Japan will now face Samo and Argentina in their next two group fixtures and the wing believes it is crunch time for the Brave Blossoms.
“It’s a big game. It’s pretty much do or die now.
“We’ve got a 12-day turnaround, so we’ll just get away from footy for two days and refresh mentally. We’ll come back in and I’m sure Browny (assistant coach Tony Brown) will have a mastermind plan in place for us.
“We don’t need bonus points, we just need to win and beat Argentina.
“That’s what you live for – you love the pressure, you love the atmosphere.
“We’re just going to have to do it the hard way now. We win, we live to fight another day, if we lose we’ll go packing. We’ll save our best for these knockout games.”
Captain Kazuki Himeno added his thoughts on Lawe’s try, saying: “I believe that we gave it part of what we planned to do but in the second half we had the unfortunate luck which gave up a try and allowed them to score more.
“We will need to take what we did well in terms of creating our game and put it into the second half. That was on one of the takeaways for us and needs improving. Tough games will continue so we need to completely improve that point.”