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Japan 20 Tonga 24
Tonga outscored Japan three tries to two to ensure Toutai Kefu got the better of his former coach Eddie Jones in the Pacific Nations Cup in Tokyo yesterday.
“It’s good to get the win but whether we played well or not [I don’t know],” Kefu said. “But it’s good to finish on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Tonga opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Kurt Morath knocked over a penalty.
But Japan bounced back and scored the first try of the game five minutes later, when debutant Hendrik Tui was pushed over by the pack following a well-executed driving maul.
Ayumu Goromaru added the extras from out wide as Japan went 7-3 up.
But the cheers of the crowd quickly turned to moans as an error from the restart allowed Alaska Taufa to cross, with Morath adding the conversion to give Tonga a 10-7 lead.
A Goromaru penalty in the 19th minute saw the teams draw level before Tonga made the most of some poor defending to re-gain the lead, through Taniela Moa.
Morath’s conversion made it 17-10 and that’s how the teams turned around at the break.
Two minutes into the second half, some quick thinking by Goromaru saw Japan again pull level.
The fullback reacted quickest when his penalty hit the post, re-gathered the rebound and powered over for the try.
To add salt to Tonga’s wound Goromaru then added the conversion from almost the exact same spot as the original penalty.
But Paula Kaho’s try in the 61st minute once again saw Tonga regain the initiative and although Goromaru added a second penalty, Tonga held on for the win. Samoa remains the only unbeaten side in this year’s IRB Pacific Nations Cup following a 29-26 win over Fiji.
Samoa captain David Lemi led by example crossing twice as Stephen Betham’s team put themselves in a position to clinch the title if they beat Japan at the same venue later this week. “Both teams gave it their all today,” said coach Betham. “The last few minutes were very competitive as Fiji never gave up, so I am very proud of my players.” Lemi agreed with his coach adding: “Hopefully we can use this as a base and raise our level for next week’s game against Japan.”