Sat 9 Jul 2022 | 11:46

'It was a very tough match': France edge Japan

'It was a very tough match': France edge Japan
Sat 9 Jul 2022 | 11:46
'It was a very tough match': France edge Japan
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REPORT: Six Nations champions France scored a late try to edge Japan 20-15 in an emotional, thrilling, second rugby Test on Saturday, the day after the country was shocked by the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

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The Grand Slam winners found themselves trailing 15-13 with 10 minutes remaining at Tokyo’s National Stadium, where a minute’s silence was held for Abe before kick-off.

Replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud darted through a gap in the Japan defence to put France, who had trailed 15-7 at half-time, ahead and seal a 10th straight win for next year’s World Cup hosts.

Tevita Tatafu then had a late try disallowed as Japan began celebrating what they though would be a maiden victory over France, only to see it snatched away with emotions still raw among the 57,000-plus crowd a day after a gunman shot and killed the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

“It was a very tough match. We had the lead in the first half and then we lost it, and Japan were very decisive in their play,” said a relieved France head coach Fabien Galthie.

“In the second half, we managed to find a way to get it done.”

Matthis Lebel scored France’s opening try in the ninth minute after a quick passing move that caught the Japanese defence flat-footed.

Victory that got away

The home side hit back three minutes later when they collected the ball deep in their own territory and outfoxed France with a series of passes before full-back Ryohei Yamanaka went over for the try.

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Japan pressed hard for another but had to be content with a penalty that fly-half Seungshin Lee slotted to put them ahead by a point.

The score looked like it would stay that way at half-time, until Yamanaka added a second try just before the hooter after another flowing Japan move.

A Maxime Lucu penalty shortly after the break reduced the deficit, and a crucial Ben Gunter tackle on France replacement Baptiste Couilloud on the line kept Japan ahead.

Matthieu Jalibert kicked a penalty to close the gap to two points with 20 minutes remaining, and Couilloud finally edged them in front 10 minutes later after streaking through the Japan defence to touch down.

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Tatafu was then denied a try by a TMO review after rumbling over from a lineout with just five minutes left.

“I’m very disappointed with the result. We obviously had lots of chances to win that Test match,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph, ruing a victory that got away.

“They don’t come along so often that we’re really disappointed with that.

“But I’m sure our players will learn a lot from today and we play France again before the end of the year.”

France swept the two-match series having beaten Japan 42-23 in the first Test in Toyota a week ago, scoring four tries in the second half after being held 13-13 at the break.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Tries: Yamanaka 2
Con: Lee
Pen: Lee

For France:
Tries: Lebel, Couilloud
Cons: Lucu, Jalibert
Pens: Lucu, Jalibert

Teams

France: 15 Max Spring, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Yoram Moefana, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Thomas Jolmes, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros.
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Ibrahim Diallo, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Baptiste Couilloud, 23 Antoine Hastoy.

Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Shogo Nakano, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Seungshin Lee, 9 Naoto Saito, 8 Jack Cornelsen, 7 Ben Gunter, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Sanaila Waqa, 4 Warner Dearns, 3 Asaeli Ai Valu, 2 Atsushi Sakate (captain), 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Yukio Morikawa, 18 Yusuke Kizu, 19 Takayasu Tsuji, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Shane Gates.

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

PV: 5
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