Japan finished Ireland 2017 on a high with victory over Asian rivals Hong Kong to claim only their second win in Women’s Rugby World Cup history. #WRWC2017
The Sakura 15 had emphatically beaten Hong Kong twice to win the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship crown again in July, but this was a much closer affair than those two matches which yielded 20 tries for Japan.
There were only 82 seconds on the clock when Mayu Shimizu opened the scoring for Japan following a turnover, the full-back throwing a dummy and darting through the gaping hole in the defence in front of her.
She wasn’t able to add the conversion from out wide, but Japan doubled their advantage when winger Honoka Tsutsumi showed sensational pace to round the defender in the 12th minute for a 10-0 lead.
That cushion had grown to 15 points by the half-time whistle after another turnover and good break from Tsutsumi saw the ball worked along the line for winger Akari Kato to touch down. The second half had barely got going when Shimizu threw another dummy and coasted through for Japan’s fourth try of the match.
Hong Kong, though, kept plugging away and were rewarded when they won an attacking lineout six metres out and after teenage centre Kelsie Bouttle was held up, hooker Karen So jumped over the top to spark great celebrations at the try being awarded to make it 20-5.
Japan then finished with a flourish for their fans, Sakurai driving over from close range before flanker flanker Suzuki, showing the vision and pace of a winger, broke free and raced away from halfway to score her side’s eighth try.
Japan captain Seina Saito: “We can be very happy to have got the win. We have been talking with other players and we will be back for the next World Cup. To have two Asian teams in the World Cup is a great step forward for Asian rugby.”
Hong Kong captain Chow Mei Nam: “It is the first time we are in a World Cup and we wanted to create a legacy for Hong Kong. We created it and it was tough but we never gave up until the end.
I think we can improve our rugby intensity and get more girls to come and enjoy the rugby and we will come back. We are very happy to be here for Hong Kong and to represent Hong Kong. Everyone is supporting us in Hong Kong and we will play better.”