Hogg strikes as Scotland beat Japan
MATCH REPORT: Stuart Hogg set a new national try-scoring record as Scotland ended their year with a 29-20 win over Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The captain’s 25th Test try was one of four scored by Scotland in their first meeting with Japan since the Brave Blossoms knocked them out of the 2019 World Cup.
It also saw fullback Hogg take sole possession of a Scotland try-scoring record he had shared with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger.
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Victory meant Scotland had won two of their four matches in the year-end Tests, with successes over Tonga and Australia preceding last week’s 30-15 loss to world champions South Africa.
Scotland took an early lead when wing Duhan van der Merwe forced his way over from a rolling maul for a try in the left corner, with flyhalf Finn Russell’s conversion coming back off the post.
Japan responded with a close-range penalty kicked by Rikiya Matsuda.
Scotland gave away several penalties and their indiscipline was punished again when Matsuda kicked the visitors into a 26th-minute lead after the hosts failed to roll away at a ruck.
But a minute later Hogg made history, taking a pass from Russell before sprinting over the line.
Russell added the extras and the last act of the first half when Darcy Graham took a pass from the stand-off and the stepped inside two Japan defenders for a converted try that gave Scotland a 19-6 lead at the interval.
Scotland, however, were a man down early in the second half after Jamie Bhatti, making his first Test start in more than two years, was sent to the sin-bin with Matsuda landing the ensuing penalty.
Matsuda’s fourth penalty reduced Scotland’s lead still further before the Dark Blues reasserted their authority when replacement Stuart McInally forced his way over from a line-out for a try on the left.
Japan, however, gave themselves hope of a comeback win with their first try of the match 16 minutes from time when Tevita Tatafu forced his way over.
Matsuda’s fifth penalty saw Japan close to within a converted try of victory.
But Scotland put the result beyond doubt a minute from time when Russell, following some discussion with Hogg, kicked a penalty that put the hosts two scores in front.
Tries: Van Der Merwe, Hogg, Graham, McInally
Cons: Russell 3
Pens: Matsuda 5
Yellow card: Jamie Ritchie (Scotland, 43 – repeated infringements)
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Matt Fagerson, 22 George Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 13 Shogo Nakano, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Michael Leitch, 5 James Moore, 4 Jack Cornelsen, 3 Asaeli Ai Valu, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Ben Gunter, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Dylan Riley.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa)