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Japan XV bests Australia A in 15-try thriller

By Sam Smith
Kotaro Matsushima. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Japan XV has prevailed 52-48 against Australia A in a stunning 15-try point-scoring extravaganza in the final match of the teams’ three-match series, won 2-1 by Australia A.

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The Australians scored eight tries to seven in Osaka, but the home team’s goal-kicking proved the difference with an unblemished record from eight attempts at goal (seven conversions and one penalty).

It was a fast and expansive match, with attacking play the order of the evening – both teams turning down easy penalty goal opportunities on a number of occasions with the aim of more points.

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It did not take long for Japan to cross from a backline move down the right edge, an inside pass bouncing off Ryohei Yamanaka’s knee before he won the race to the ball to ground it in just the third minute.

Pone Fa’amausili levelled the scores in the tenth minute, scoring off a well-worked lineout play featuring some sharp passing among the forwards.

It was a strong start by the giant Melbourne Rebels prop, however he would leave the field shortly after with a leg injury.

The match flowed from end to end for a period, before Japan XV broke the deadlock, and went on to extend a sizeable lead after Tevita Tatafu scored a barnstorming double in the space of three minutes.

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Dylan Riley added a fourth for the home team with a 40-metre run to the tryline to establish a 28-7 lead.

The visitors hit back with two tries of their own – first, Lachlan Lonergan crossing off the back of a lineout maul, before a superb cut-out pass from Hamish Stewart set Rory Scott free to run 30 metres down the left side to score.

Ben Donaldson’s conversion from out wide reduced the deficit to nine points, before a Kotaro Matsushima try in the shadows of half-time saw Japan extend to a 35-19 lead at the break.

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Japan XV would start the second half in the best possible way with Michael Leitch collecting a cross-field kick and passing back inside to Australian-born Jack Cornelsen to go over.

Seungsin Lee’s sublime right boot added the extras, and Japan XV had its largest lead of the match at 23 points.

From there, the Australians kicked into gear, with Brad Wilkin scoring two tries either side of a Lee penalty.

The first try came off a broken down lineout maul, and the second off some quick thinking by Mark Nawaqanitawase who took a quick tap ten metres out and sent the flanker in under the posts.

Next, hooker Lachlan Lonergan completed a double, showing off his speed with a 23-metre sprint down the left touchline.

When second-half substitute Dylan Pietsch beat two defenders to score, the Australians were within two points at 45-43 – Ryan Lonergan unable to draw level with a difficult conversion attempt from the touchline.

Japan XV halted Australia A’s run in the 72nd minute when Faulua Makisi crashed over from a lineout maul after a sustained period of pressure.

Takuya Yamasawa’s conversion from out wide saw the lead grow to nine points, ultimately proving too much for the Australians to overcome.

After some more dynamic play from Nawaqanitawase, his New South Wales Waratahs wing partner Dylan Pietsch crossed for his second try on the full-time siren, however it was too late for the visitors on a busy night for the scoreboard attendant.

The result sees the three-match series finish 2-1 to Australia A, after the visitors won the first game 34-22 in Tokyo and the second 22-21 in a thriller in Fukuoka.

AUSTRALIA A 48 (L. Lonergan 2, Wilkin 2, Pietsch 2, Fa’amausili, Scott tries; Donaldson 2, R.Lonergan 2 conversions) defeated by JAPAN XV 52 (Tatafu 2, Yamanaka, Riley, Matsushima, Cornelsen, Makisi tries; Lee 6, Yamasawa 1 conversions; Lee 1 penalty)

– Rugby Australia

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