Japan wore black armbands in honour of coach Jamie Joseph’s late mother as they secured a win in Higashiosaka City that was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
Tonga will play twice at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium during RWC 2019 and it looked as though they were acclimatising well to their surroundings as an early attack ended with a yellow card for Japan winger Katoro Matsushima, who was adjudged to have knocked on deliberately.
From the resulting lineout fly-half Latiume Fosita hoisted a cross-field kick to the right wing where ‘Atieli Pakalani was waiting in space, however, the ball evaded him in the in-goal area.
And the 14 men of Japan soon made their visitors pay as Amanaki Mafi powered over from close range to open the scoring.
Once back up to their full complement, Japan took control of the contest and ended the first quarter 14-0 in front as Asaeli Ai Valu, who like Mafi was born in Tonga, burrowed over.
Tamura added a penalty early in the second half to stretch Japan’s lead to 24-0, but the hosts were not playing with as much fluency and in the 57th minute Leva Fifita burrowed over the try-line to get Tonga on the scoreboard.
A second Tamura penalty, with 12 minutes remaining, settled any nerves however, and Japan rediscovered their verve to score two tries in the final eight minutes.
Tamura had a hand in the first, putting a grubber through for Matsushima to latch onto but the second was all replacement winger Kenki Fukuoka’s work as he beat two defenders on the touchline before dotting down in the left corner.
Japan captain Michael Leitch said: “We were able to achieve what we wanted to do so I would give eight out of 10 for tonight.”
Japan attack coach Tony Brown added: “I thought the test match was a tough old battle. I just think then when we did score our tries we executed well.”
Tonga captain Siale Piutau said: “It was a tough game. We knew that Japan were going to play a fast tempo game and they capitalised on all our errors.”
Final score: Japan 41 – Tonga 7
– World Rugby
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.