Japan beat Hong Kong 29-17 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Saturday to move ever closer to securing the 2017 Asia Rugby Championship.
But the visitors can take heart from a spirited performance that left coach Leigh Jones ruing what might have been.
“From a pure coaching perspective I am bloody annoyed with the last 20 minutes,” the Welshman said. “I think I got my substitutions wrong and it may have cost us a rare victory in Japan.”
A try from Tyler Spitz in the 56th minute had seen Hong Kong go 17-12 up. But the experience of the hosts eventually came to the fore as Rugby World Cup veterans Akihito Yamada, Shota Horie and Harumichi Tatekawa all crossed the whitewash in the final quarter of the game to seal the win.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph took a slightly different line to Jones saying “Hong Kong were very physical for the whole 80 minutes. I was surprised they maintained it for the whole match. Their line speed was very fast and their backs tackled well and that slowed down our game.”
Japan had come out the blocks firing with Shuhei Matsuhashi touching down in just the second minute.
But a yellow card to Samuela Anise 14 minutes later allowed Hong Kong to take the lead with Jamie Hood kicking a penalty and then converting Yiu Kam Shing’s try.
It seemed the visitors would go into the break ahead, but a try from Yamada just before the break made it 12-10.
Hong Kong dominated the early proceedings in the second stanza and Spitz’s try – courtesy of a great offload from Matt Rosslee – saw them go five points clear.
But it was Japan who finished strongest and three tries in the final 19 minutes saw them pick up a bonus point and secure the win.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win after leading with 20 minutes to go and I’m disappointed we couldn’t make a bonus point,” said Hong Kong captain Ben Roberts.
Joseph, meanwhile, praised the mental strength of his leadership group.
“I’m proud we didn’t lose our way and when we did our leadership group came through and got us back on track quickly.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Kenji Demura
Japan Rugby Football Union
Hong Kong Rugby Union
Japan Vs Hong Kong