Rugby World Cup 2019: Japan set up South Africa quarter-final as Scotland crash out
Brave Blossoms withstand late Scotland fightback to prevail in Yokohama
Japan will look to repeat the "Miracle of Brighton" when they face South Africa in the Rugby World Cup after winning a thrilling match against Scotland to finish top of Pool A.
The Brave Blossoms pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history when Eddie Jones' side secured a last-gasp 34-32 victory at the 2015 tournament and they will again face the Springboks after qualifying for the knockouts for the first time in their history.
Scotland had threatened to ruin the party with two-second half tries that pulled them to within a converted try of levelling the match before eventually succumbing 28-21 that sees them eliminated, with Ireland through as runners-up to face two-time defending champions New Zealand.
Japan have endeared themselves to fans as gracious hosts, but the champagne rugby they offered in the opening 40 minutes was a delight to watch.
Organisers gave the go-ahead for the match in Yokohama near Tokyo despite the fall-out from Typhoon Hagibis, which swept through Japan and caused widespread flooding and left at least 11 people dead.
Japan were forced to weather an early Scotland storm after fly-half Finn Russell darted over for an early try but it was all Japan after that.
Jamie Joseph's side hit back with a spectacular passage of play that saw Kotaro Matsushima finish off a move down the left that pulled the Scotland defence inside out.
Japan's second try was equally impressive and just reward for their commitment to always support the ball carrier. Matsushima burst through two poor Scotland challenges and kept the ball alive with the ball eventually working its way to full-back Will Tupou, who sidestepped two would-be challenges before passing to loosehead prop Keita Inagaki to touch down in front of the posts.
Kenki Fukuoka, whose pass off the ground had sent fellow win Matsushima over for Japan's first try, got his own name on the scoresheet when he beat the scrambling defence to a grubber kick from Tim Lafaele.
Yu Tamura, despite missing with an earlier penalty, landed all three conversions as Japan went into the break with a 21-7 lead.
If Scotland were hoping to make early inroads to get themselves back into the game they were soon staring at a mountain to climb as Fukuoka went over for his second try of the match, with Tamura again adding the extras.
To their credit, Scotland showed tremendous heart to get themselves back into the match. Gregor Townsend's men smelt blood when prop Willem Nel and then replacement Zander Ferguson barreled over from close range with Russell slotting over the conversions to reduce the arrears to 28-21.
Tempers flared on 66 minutes with Tamura and Jamie Richie involved in a pushing match before players from both sides piled in, no doubt sensing what was at stake as the game entered the final quarter.
When composure was needed, poor handling and decision-making - aligned with stoic Japan defending - cost Scotland a chance to draw level, a result that would still have seen the Scots eliminated.
Instead Japan held on for a historic win to clinch a place in the last eight and another date with destiny against the Springboks.
Updated: October 13, 2019 04:53 PM