Better effort from Manu Samoa but Brave Blossoms too good

Samoa can no longer make the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup after their loss to Japan at Toyota Stadium.

Japan defeated the Manu Samoa, 31-19, at Toyota Stadium in their Rugby World Cup Pool A match on Sunday morning time.

The loss means Samoa can no longer qualify for the quarterfinals, regardless of the result against Ireland in their final pool game next weekend.

Japan signalled their attacking intentions early, looking to shift the ball wide as quickly as possible.

They opened the scores in the 3rd minuteafter Jordan Lay was penalised for not rolling away, Yu Tamura making no mistake from 30 metres out right in front of the posts.

The first five added to his tally a couple of minutes later, after a break from wing Lomano Lemeki brought play inside the Manu 22 metre line.

Chris Vui was caught offside, and Tamura duly slotted his kick again to extend Japan’s lead.

But the Manu responded immediately as hooker Seilala Lam showed why he was chosen to start the game, winning a penalty for holding on straight from kickoff inside Japan’s 22 metre line.

Second five Henry Taefu stepped up and put a tricky kick from out wide straight down the middle to make it 6-3.

He scored again in the 16th minute from another breakdown penalty; this time Michael Leitch was pinged for falling on the wrong side of the ruck.

But Japan’s attack continued to look dangerous, and they won their own breakdown penalty allowing Tamura to restore a three-point lead in the 24th minute.

Just a few phases later, TJ Ioane made a late tackle on winger Kotaro Matsushima that earned him a yellow card.

The Manu’s discipline has been under a microscope all tournament, and Ioane knew he was going to be in trouble, apologising to his teammates as he left the field.

Both teams engaged in some kicking, before Japan finally decided to keep it in hand and test Samoa’s 14-man defence.

The Brave Blossom’s Samoan-born centre Timothy Lafaele, who has been one of the form players of the tournament to date, eventually scored out wide in the 29th minute.

Henry Taefu had a shot at goal from 50-plus metres on the angle, but couldn’t convert.

He did score in the 34th minute though, converting from 40 metres out in front of the posts after Japan lock James Moore was penalised for colliding with Tim Nanai-Williams after a kick from the fullback.

Ioane came back and helped settle things before halftime, with the Manu Samoa still well in the hunt.

Centre Kieron Fonotia came on at halftime, replacing Tim Nanai-Williams as Ah See Tuala shifted to fullback and Alapati Leiua went out to the wing.

Seilala Lam continued his excellent game winning another penalty for holding on in the 44th minute, allowing Henry Taefu to line up from 39 metres out in the centre of the ground.

The second five made no mistake, shortening the deficit to just four points.

Tamura had the chance to get it back to seven immediately when the Manu were pinged for obstruction after Piula Fa’asalele and TJ Ioane broke away from the maul at the kickoff, but he had his first miss of the night from out wide.

In the 50th minute it was number eight Kazuki Himeno’s turn to win a penalty for not releasing at the ruck, and Tamura was able to convert from a much healthier angle.

The Brave Blossoms were able to turn Samoa around with a grubber in behind forcing Tuala to motor back and conceding a lineout deep in Manu territory.

The fullback was struggling to get there, and after a calf tear kept him out of the first two World Cup games it looked like he may have aggravated that knock, forcing him off the field.

Hometown hero Kazuki Himeno was at the back of a brilliant Brave Blossoms lineout maul from that position to get Japan’s second try in the 54th minute.

Samoa turned up the pressure over the next 10 minutes or so, but received little reward for their efforts, Japan holding firm each time they entered their 22-metre line.

A Henry Taefu break got the Manu back in Japan’s red zone, and back-to-back penalties allowed them to work a couple of lineout mauls.

They went through the hands from the second, with Taefu getting over for a well-deserved try 15 metres in from touch in the 73rd minute.

He scored his and Samoa’s 18th and 19th points with a successful conversion to bring them back within seven.

But Japan went straight on the attack after recovering their kickoff, and were able to stretch the scrambling Manu defence just enough for Kenki Fukuoka to get their third try with just a few minutes remaining.

They pressed for an all-important bonus point in the dying moments, throwing a full 13 men into a maul off the back of an attacking lineout.

But Samoa held them out just before the final siren, earning a five metre scrum when the maul collapsed short of the line.

Japan earned a couple of penalties at scrum-time though, and eventually got that bonus point in the 85th minute through Kotaro Matsushima’s fourth try of the Rugby World Cup.

Japan 38 (Lafaele, Himeno, Fukuoka, Matsushima tries; Tamura 4/5 pen, 3/4 cons)

Samoa 19 (Taefu try; Taefu 4/5 pen)

HT: 16-9

Attendance: 39,695

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