Japan bounce back with hard-fought triumph over plucky Tonga in Higashiosaka

Seungsin Lee Japan v Tonga Pacific Nations Cup 2023 - Alamy.jpg Credit: Alamy

Seungsin Lee Japan v Tonga Pacific Nations Cup 2023 – Alamy.jpg Credit: Alamy

Japan returned to the victory trail when they clinched a hard-fought 21-16 triumph over Tonga in their Pacific Nations Cup encounter in Higashiosaka on Saturday.

After starting their campaign with a narrow loss to Samoa last weekend, the Brave Blossoms delivered an improved performance and bounced back against the ‘Ikale Tahi to keep their hopes alive of winning the competition.

The home side eventually outscored the Pacific Islanders by three tries to two with Jone Naikabula, Amato Fakatava and Semisi Masirewa crossing the whitewash while their other points came courtesy of penalties from Seungsin Lee and Rikiya Matsuda.

For Tonga, Sonatane Takulua and Samuela Moli scored tries and their other points came via the boot of William Havili, who succeeded with two three-pointers off the kicking tee.

Brave Blossoms strike first

The Brave Blossoms dominated the early exchanges and took the lead in the 19th minute when Naikabula rounded off a flowing backline move – in which Masirewa was prominent.

Despite that setback, the visitors had the bulk of the possession as the half progressed and they struck back with Takulua’s try three minutes later.

Japan finished the half stronger, however, and after Lee slotted his penalty on the half-hour mark, Fakatava crossed for their second try after a superb offload from Naikabula which gave the hosts a 13-5 lead at the interval.

The second half started brightly for the visitors when Havili reduced the deficit with his first penalty shortly after the restart and in the 46th minute he succeeded with his second one which meant the Brave Blossoms were holding a narrow two-point lead.

Japan needed a response and that came in the 52nd minute when Masirewa went over for his try after running onto a well-timed pass from Ryohei Yamanaka.

No surrender from Tonga

However, Tonga did not surrender and they struck back in the 56th minute when Moli dotted down after a rolling maul from their forwards deep inside the Brave Blossoms’ 22.

The final quarter was a closely fought battle as both sides tried to gain the ascendancy but Japan sealed their victory in the 66th minute when Matsuda slotted the match-winning penalty.

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The article Japan bounce back with hard-fought triumph over plucky Tonga in Higashiosaka appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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