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Wallabies overcome Brave Blossoms tussle to win fifth straight

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

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It didn’t come easy, but the Wallabies have extended their winning streak to five matches after beating Japan 32-23 at Oita Stadium on Saturday afternoon. As Stan Sport mentioned after full-time, it’s the first time since 2008 that the Australians have won that many Tests in a row outside of a World Cup.

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The Wallabies returned to Oita for the first time since their Quarter-Final against England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where they lost 40-16.

The men in gold came into this clash as clear favourites, on the back of two impressive wins over both South Africa and Argentina. But as we all know, Japan are more than capable of an upset, and they definitely came to play.

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The Wallabies controlled the opening passages of the Test, as they played with a majority of the possession in the first five minutes. But this was arguably a taste of what was to come from the Brave Blossoms, with their enthusiasm in defence proving tough to crack.

But after a bit of back-and-forth in attack, the first real point-scoring opportunity of the match came in the sixth minute, after some clever link-up play from Rob Valetini and Quade Cooper. Off a scrum near halfway, Cooper sent the Number Eight charging down the field after a clever no-look inside ball, before Valetini returned the ball with a one-handed pass.

After six phases of attack, the Wallabies finally broke through the Brave Blossoms defensive line for the opening score of the Test.

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Cooper was again front and centre as he has been over the Wallabies’ recent winning run, running at the Japan defensive line 22-metres out from the try-line, before handing the ball off to winger Tom Wright who beat the covering Japan defender on his way to his second Test try.

Japan registered their first points of the afternoon in the 16th minute, with Rikiya Matsuda converting a penalty.

But the Wallabies answered back five minutes later, with substitute Jordan Petaia scoring the second try of his Test career, after crossing in the corner. The 21-year-old made his Test debut at Oita Stadium during the World Cup, where he scored his first international try.

The Brave Blossoms scored their first Try of the afternoon shortly after as well, with winger Lomano Lava Lemeki crossing in the corner after some fast feet saw him beat his opposite in Tom Wright. As reported by Stan Sport, it was the first time since 1987 that Japan had scored a first-half try against the Wallabies.

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The two sides traded penalties to round out the half, with the Wallabies leading 13-17 at the break.

Shortly after half-time, Taniela Tupou scored after a clever lineout move from the visitors. It was a forwards masterclass, with Fainga’a, Izack Rodda, Michael Hooper and Rob Valetini all playing their part in the build-up.

Japan went down to 14-men in the 50th minute, with try-scorer Lemeki shown a yellow card for a no-arms tackle.

The Wallabies made the most of this, as they scored as they scored an impressive team try.

Quick thinking from Len Ikitau sent Nic White in a gap, who put a kick through, which the Wallabies regathered inside the Japan 22. But it was the no-look Quade Cooper flick pass that got the ball out wide, with Rob Leota crossing for his first international try, making the scores 13-27.

Against the run of play, inside centre Ryoto Nakamura intercepted a Quade Cooper pass to run 22-metres to the try-line. The conversion from in-front was converted, bringing the scores to 20-27.

While a Yu Tamura penalty in the 74th minute brought the hosts to within a try of the lead, they weren’t able to register the points needed in the dying stages of the Test.

Instead, the Wallabies scored with two minutes to play through Test debutant Connal McInerney, on the back of an unstoppable maul from the Wallabies.

The Wallabies have three more matches to play in 2021, as they head off to Europe for the rest of their Spring Tour. They’re set to take on Scotland, England and Wales next month.

But there is one injury cloud having over the Wallabies coming out of this Test, with Fullback Reece Hodge leaving the field with an injury inside 15-minutes.

Japan are also set to take on Ireland, Portugal and Scotland in November.

Japan – 23: Tries (Lemeki, Nakamura); Conversions (Matsuda, Tamura); Penalties (2 Matsuda, Tamura)

Wallabies – 32: Tries (Wright, Petaia, Tupou, Leota, McInerney); Conversions (2 Cooper); Penalties (Cooper)

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