Japan will take some momentum into their first Women’s Rugby World Cup for 15 years after recording an emphatic victory over hosts Hong Kong at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sakura 15s had beaten Hong Kong 58-0 last weekend in Odawara to all but retain their Asia Rugby Women’s Championship crown and produced another 10-try performance in their second meeting to better that score.
“Full credit to Japan, they played very well and are coming along nicely,” Hong Kong coach Jo Hull said afterwards. “They are always clinical but today they were very accurate and played at good pace. I think they will do well at the World Cup, and we hope they do as we are all representing Asia at the end of the day.”
Just as in the first match, Japan made a flying start to the match with centre Riho Kurogi scoring the opening try before there were five minutes on the clock and the visitors had the bonus point wrapped up within 27 minutes after tries by full-back Ai Tasaka, second-row Aoi Mimura and captain Seina Saito.
Hong Kong did manage to open their account in the 2017 competition when captain Chow Mei Nam crashed over the line after a solid patch of play, but Japan responded with a fifth try befre half-time through Kurogi, the centre matching her double for the first match.
The hosts, who will make their Women’s Rugby World Cup debut in Ireland next month, came flying out of the blocks themselves at the start of the second half, scrum-half Sham Wai-sum coming on to inject some fluidity into the attack with winger Chong Ka-yan opening up the defence inside two minutes.
Japan reasserted their advantage with two quick-fire tries of their own, through number eight Maki Takano and winger Honoka Tsutsumi to take the score out to 38-14. Takano was sin-binned for repeated infringement in the 56th minute and Sham capitalised on the space to dart over for Hong Kong’s third try.
The Sakura 15s, though, weren’t finished with further tries from replacement Sachiko Kato and Sakyaki Suzuki taking Japan through the 50-point mark again before flanker flanker Yuki Oyokawa crossed for her side’s 10th and final try.
“This is the final match before we go out to the WRWC 2017, and we went into the match doubling as assessing our players for the World Cup selection. I saw some players showed a quality to play in the WRWC 2017 but I also saw some players that won’t be good enough. I will set my focus on how individual players played rather than the team to make a review,” said Japan head coach Goshi Arimizu, who names his final squad on 30 July.
Hull will name her 28-strong squad for WRWC 2017 on 22 July and, while disappointed at another heavy defeat, she was able to see some improvements from their loss in Japan.
“It was another disappointing result, and obviously we aren’t happy with that, but there was some positives compared to last week’s loss in Japan,” insisted Hull.
“Our defence was good for parts of the game, as was our commitment and physicality in the contact area. Our performance at the breakdown was good and I think we improved in the set piece and were carrying the ball a bit better than last week.
“At times we were building good momentum in our attack, but there were some real individual errors that cost us quite dearly. We are disappointed, but at the same time we needed that game, because the next time we play it will be against Canada at the World Cup.”
The result will have a minimal impact on the World Rugby Women's Rankings when they update at 12 noon on Monday with Japan improving their rating by two hundredths with the victory. They will remain 14th with Hong Kong 23rd.
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