USA 18-25 Japan: Brave Blossoms end tournament on a high
- Japan qualify automatically for 2019 tournament due to being hosts
- Kotaro Matsushima opens scoring in Japanese first attack
- The United States failed to register any World Cup points
- Japan become the first team ever to win three games in the pool and not qualify for the next round.
Three weeks after causing the sport’s greatest upset through defeating twice world champions South Africa in Brighton, Eddie Jones Japan put on a show for the crowd in Gloucester as they defeated the USA, who had packed into the shed.
The Brave Blossoms scored with their very first entry into American territory with Kotaro Matsushima touching down.
The star of the show once again was, Ayumu Goromaru, who was exceptional with the tee all night, continuously stretching the Brave Blossoms lead at crucial times with fantastic conversations. He also did exceptionally to kick his side out of danger when they were on the backfoot on many occasions.
Yoshikazu Fujita scored the Blossoms second try as the Japanese pack began to dominate the game and in the end helped them see out the victory in convincing fashion.
The United States had given their fans a glimmer of hope through tries from Takudzwa Ngwenya and Chris Wyles, but Japan’s lead never seemed in doubt as they saw the game out.
Both sets of players left everything on the field and ran off with a standing ovation from the crowd.
It was the Americans who started on the front foot, reclaiming their kick off before Peterson drove his side forward, earning his side a penalty after four minutes. MacGinty calmly converted to give his side the lead, 3-0.
However, Japan quickly turned the scoreline around as in their first foray into American territory Kotaro Matsushima scored in the corner. Goromaru then stepped up to add the extras confidently.
It was a stop-start game after 15 minutes with either side struggling to find any sort of rhythm, with both teams attempting and failing with numerous offload attempts.
The Americans retook the lead after 23 minutes thanks to Ngwenya, who slid in at the corner following some good quick ball from a ruck a few yards from the try line. The conversion was missed by MacGinty but the Eagles held a slender 8-7 lead.
However, moments later, the USA surrendered their lead after a huge Japanese maul forced them right back onto their own line. Fujita picked the ball up at the back and found the gap to bundle his over just before the half hour with Goromaru converting. The fullback then stretched the lead further through a penalty to give his side a nine-point lead going into the break, 8-17.
Straight after the restart Goromaru kicked yet another penalty to increase the lead to 12 points, giving his side some breathing room. MacGinty clawed back three more points back for Eagles with a routine penalty just moments later, much to the delight of a captain America look-a-like in the crowd, 11-20.
Newcastle Falcons Eric Fry was then sent in the sin bin for America for kicking the ball in the tackle, his second such offence in a matter of moments. The Brave Blossoms took full advantage of the extra man seconds later with another try, this time from their number eight Amanaki Mafi, who ploughed through a wall of navy blue shirts before forcing the ball down.
The Americans made a game of it in the final ten minutes, as MacGinty span a wonderful long pass out to the right flank, allowing Saracens fullback Wyles to stroll in for an easy try. The number 10 then added the conversion to bring the Eagles within a converted score, 18-25.
However, with hope on their side, America lost their discipline at a crucial time late in the game, gifting a kickable penalty to the lethal boot of Goromaru, who struck the ball confidently between the posts to seal the win.
Man of the match: Ayumu Goromaru
The Japanese fullback was absolutely sensational for his side, in every aspect of the game. He made crucial last ditch tackles to stop the powerful Americans running through and his kicking game, bar one conversion, was spot on all evening. He kicked his side out of danger when needed and the points he scored effectively won his side the game.
United States: 1-Eric Fry, 2-Zach Fenoglio (Phil Thiel 64), 3-Titi Lamositele, 4-Hayden Smith (Cameron Dolan 31), 5-Greg Peterson (John Quill 77), 6-Alastair McFarland (Danny Barrett 64);7-Andrew Durutalo, 8-Samu Manoa;9-Mike Petri, 10-Alan MacGinty, 11-Zachary Test, 12-Thretton Palamo, 13-Seamus Kelly;14-Takudzwa Ngwenya 15-Chris Wyles
Japan: 1-Keita Inagaki (Masataka Mikami, 59), 2-Shota Horie (Takeshi Kizu 77), 3-Hiroshi Yamashita (Kensuke Hatakeyama 41), 4-Luke Thompson, 5-Justin Ives (Shinya Makabe 68), 6-Michael Leitch (capt);7-Michael Broadhurst (Hendrik Tui 73), 8-Ryukoliniasi Holani (Amanaki Lelei Mafi 41) ;9-Fumiaki Tanaka (Atsushi Hiwasa 62), 10-Kosei Ono, 11-Kotaro Matsushima (Karne Hesketh 49), 12-Craig Wing, 13-Harumichi Tatekawa;14-Yoshikazu Fujita 15-Ayumu Goromaru