Monday, May 4, 2009

Test rugby result: Japan 59, Hong Kong 6

A match review from Ian McDonnell in Japan.

"Hong Kong were at home for their first game of the 2009 HSBC Asian Five Nations against Japan after having the bye in the first round. Hong Kong warmed up for this test with a game against the visiting New Zealand Universities side on the Friday of the bye weekend. In the equivalent game last year played in regional Niigata city, Hong Kong but in a far better performance than in other recent encounters but still went down to the tune of 75-29.

However, this year the encounter was back on the artificial surface of the Hong Kong Football Club for the first time since the final Asian qualification round for the 2007 Rugby World Cup held in November 2006. Japan head coach John Kirwan was an adviser to the Japan team on that occasion two and a half years ago with general manager Osamu Ota acting as interim coach after previous coach Jean-Pierre Elissalde was dismissed over a conflict of interest. Kirwan was officially sworn in as coach on 1 January 2007 and this was his twenty-fifth test in charge of the Japan national side.

In the first round, last Saturday in Osaka, Japan defeated Kazakhstan 87-10 whereas Hong Kong had the first round bye.

Fullback Jack Tarrant opened the scoring in this test with a try in the seventh minute of play. The New Zealand born Tarrant made his debut for Japan last week against Kazakhstan and so this was his first test in the run-on side. The home side were the next to score care of a successful shot at penalty from five-eighth Kenzo Pannell in the tenth minute to bring back the score to 5-3. However, over the remainder of the first half it was the Japanese forwards that added the tries with 23-year-old loose head prop Naoki Kawamata touching down in the 18th minute followed by further five-pointers to open side flanker Yoshitaka Nakamura (36th minute) and tight head prop Kensuke Hatakeyama two minutes later. Panel added a second penalty on the half hour mark and the sides went to the break with Japan leading 26-6 after centre Ryan Nicholas converted three of the four tries.

Japan kept Hong Kong scoreless in the second stanza while adding a further five tries to the scoreboard. Captain Takashi Kikutani touched down in the third minute of play to add to the try he scored last week against Kazakhstan. The captain played on the open side of the scrum last round but was moved to No8 for this clash with Hong Kong. Hatakeyama brought up his double in the seventh minute and this was followed by tries to veteran lock Hitoshi Ono (11th minute) and wing Hirotoki Onozawa (24th minute). The 31-year-old Onozawa, as the oldest player in the XXII, is also now in the veteran class for Japan as he gets set to become only the fourth Japanese player to play fifty tests for the national side. Onozawa sits on 49 caps after this test with only the Kobe trio of centre Daisuke Ohata (58), No8 Takeomi Ito (62) and centre Yukio Motoki (79) ahead of him. Halfback Fumiaki Tanaka finished off the try scoring near the close of play and Nicholas completed the day converting seven of the nine tries.

In the other round two game played in Almaty, the home side Kazakhstan surprised Korea by running out 30-27 winners after leading 13-3 at halftime. For Kazakhstan, all their 30 points were scored by just two players with flanker Anton Rudoy scoring all three tries and fullback Maxim Lifontov converting all the tries as well as landing three penalty goals. The hosts led 27-10 at one stage in the second half but Korea fought back to even things up at 27-all by about the hour mark. However, Lifontov kicked the decisive penalty and Kazakhstan held on for a memorable victory. Chae Jae Young, Jeong Dae Ik and Han Kun Kyu were the try scorers for Korea. "

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