Rugby World Cup Pool B: Scotland burst Brave Blossoms bubble
Scotland got their Rugby World Cup campaign off to a winning start in Pool B with a 45-10 victory over Japan at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium. Coral now make the Caledonian country 7/2 chances to top their group.
Five second-half tries, with Mark Bennett’s brace supplementing crosses by John Hardie, Tommy Seymour and Finn Russell, allowed Vern Cotter’s team to ultimately run out comfortable bonus point victors following a tense first 40 minutes.
Playing just four days after their famous win over South Africa proved too much for the Brave Blossoms, who went over first through Amanaki Mafi, but were behind 12-7 at the interval thanks to Grieg Laidlaw’s proficient kicking from penalties.
The Scots got their noses in front inside three minutes when pressuring an exposed Kotaro Matsushima from an early Japanese line-out. Laidlaw’s two penalties, the second awarded against Brave Blossoms captain Michael Letich, gave them a 6-0 lead.
Ayumu Goromaru’s clever kick from a Japan penalty finally gave them a chance deep in Scottish territory on a quarter of an hour. Their pack superbly drove over the line with Mafi, who was later stretchered off injured, grounding the ball.
Goromaru converted to ensure a swift 7-6 turnaround. Brave Blossoms ill-discipline, including a sin-binning for Matsushima, allowed Scotland to punish their plucky opponents with two further Laidlaw penalties.
Japan were perhaps unlucky not to go in at half-time ahead, with an audacious attempt to cross by vaulting over their own ruck under the Scottish posts bravely thwarted by Laidlaw and Ross Ford.
With another Goromaru penalty bringing the score back to 12-10, Hardie began the glut of second-half tries on 49 minutes, helping to keep the attack alive in the build-up and the ball away from touch out wide.
Although Laidlaw failed to convert, he did on all four subsequent occasions to take his personal points tally to 20 in this contest. Bennett’s first try followed on 55 minutes with Stuart Hogg influential in the build-up, as gaps began to appear in the Japanese defence.
Seymour then intercepted Kenki Fukuoka and raced clear for a third Scotland try, despite an attempt to atone by the Brave Blossoms player. Two more followed, a second from Bennett and Russell rounding things off, at five-minute intervals.
Japan being ranked above the Scots following their weekend exploits was perhaps a little premature, as Cotter’s crew maintained their 100 per cent record against this opposition with this handsome victory.
Scotland’s improvement continues after picking up the Six Nations wooden spoon in the spring, so a bonus point win will grow confidence in their camp ahead of sterner tests in this Rugby World Cup pool.