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Missed conversion grants Japan their first ever win over Italy

By Lucy Lomax
Japan's Ayasa Otsuka (C) kicks the ball forward during the New Zealand 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Japan and USA at Northland Events Centre in Whangarei on October 15, 2022. (Photo by Dave Lintott / AFP) (Photo by DAVE LINTOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

Japan withstood a fierce second-half fightback from Italy in Parma to beat the Azzurre for the first time in the 21-year history of tests between the nations.

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The Azzurre left themselves too much to do after trailing 22-7 at the break and despite bringing the score back to 25-24, a missed conversion at the death denied them victory.

Italy will quickly get the chance to set the record straight as the teams will meet again in the inaugural WXV fixture in 11 days’ time, in South Africa on Friday 13th October.

Vittoria Vecchini scored first for Italy from a maul and Beatrice Capomaggi added the conversion, but tries from Komachi Imakugi, Kotono Yasuo, Ayano Nagai and Otoka Yoshimura – the latter two coming while Italy were down to 14 players following a yellow card to Francesca Granzotto – saw Japan take command.

Granzotto made amends by scoring Italy’s second try at the start of the second half, which was converted, before Vecchini got her second of the match. This time the try went unconverted and the score was now 22-19 to Japan.

A penalty from Ayasa Otsuka extended the visitors’ lead to six points which proved crucial in the end as Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi’s try went unconverted to leave Italy one point short.

With 1.82 points gained, the win has lifted Japan above higher-ranked Italy and Ireland into tenth place, equalling their highest-ever position from earlier this year, and will have given them a real confidence boost going into WXV 2.

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