Japan crush Hong Kong in Asian Five Nations final, qualify for World Cup
Japan qualified for their eighth straight Rugby World Cup with a 49-8 win over Hong Kong Sunday to claim the Asian Five Nations title in the final sporting event at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
Japan have never lost an Asian Five Nations match in the seven-year history of the competition, which this year doubles as a World Cup qualifier, and were never seriously troubled by Hong Kong.
The visitors finished as runners-up and now face Uruguay in the first round of the World Cup repechage.
Two tries for Yoshikazu Fujita and one apiece for Harumichi Tatekawa and Justin Ives staked Japan to a comfortable half-time lead before Thomas McQueen pulled one back for Hong Kong after the break.
But the hosts stretched their legs with a try for substitute Shinya Makabe before Fujita completed his hat-trick and Takeshi Kizu and Keisuke Uchida rounded off the scoring.
Japan coach Eddie Jones was delighted to sign off in style from the iconic stadium, which was built to stage the 1964 Olympics and will now make way for a new venue to be used when Japan hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“It was fantastic. You look at the background and see the flames there that were lit 50 years ago, and to play the last game here was a special occasion for us,” said Jones.
“We finished with a bit of a flurry, so I’m sure the fans will come again and support us and I’ll sure they’ll come to the next game which will be the World Cup in 2019.”
Fullback Ayumu Goromaru gave Japan the lead with a third-minute penalty before Fujita finished off a passing move to score the first try of the evening 10 minutes later.
Hong Kong flyhalf Chris McAdam reduced the deficit with a drop-goal in the 27th minute, but Fujita ran in his second try just two minutes later before Tatekawa and Ives added two more before the half-time whistle.
But Japan failed to kill off the game as the second half got under way, and Hong Kong took advantage when McQueen went over for a try in the 61st minute.
Makabe nipped the visitors’ comeback in the bud when he touched down in the 68th minute, before Fujita scored his third of the game and Kizu and Uchida went over late to give the final scoreline a more emphatic look.
“It was a tough old game but we have achieved our first goal, to qualify for the World Cup, which is fantastic,” said Jones.
“Now the next target is to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, so everything we do from now on is about making sure we are in a position to reach the quarter-finals.”
Second-row forward Hitoshi Ono made his 80th international appearance in the game to move level with Hirotoki Onozawa as Japan’s most-capped player.
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Published: May 25, 2014 04:00 AM