PNC- Japan create history with a win over Samoa
Japan recorded their first ever ANZ Pacific Nations Cup victory over Samoa, as the Asian Five Nations champions beat the hosts 31-23 at Apia Park.
The victory is only Japan's second ever victory over the Pacific Islanders in history, the other coming in 1999, but the result keeps their ANZ PNC 2010 title challenge alive.
With the match being streamed live on the IRB website, both sides played excellent rugby, and having lost 22-8 to Fiji last week, John Kirwan's Japan recorded their first PNC victory of 2010.
After James Arlidge had given Japan a 3-0 lead from a penalty, Sevens star Lolo Lui gave Samoa the lead in the match with two penalties of his own.
Japan stepped up another gear after 20 minutes, however, with fly half Arlidge combining superbly with Ryan Nicholas for the first try of the match.
Having placed a perfectly weighted chip through for Nicholas to collect and score under the posts, Arlidge added the conversion to give the visitors a 10-6 lead.
Centre Nicholas then turned provider for Hirotoki Onozawa to score Japan's second in the corner, before scoring his second try in the 32nd minute.
Showing incredible vision and pace to race past the Samoan defence, Nicholas gave Japan a 20-6 lead before Arlidge added the conversion and a further penalty to give the visitors a 25-6 lead at half time.
Samoa came out firing in the second half, however, and although Arlidge extended the Japanese lead to 22 points, the hosts cut out the unforced errors that had littered the first half and scored three second half tries under the sun in Apia.
In the 56th minute Samoa's forwards set the platform for replacement scrum half Uale Mai to set up George Stowers for the hosts first of the match and when Japan lost prop Naoki Kawamata to the sin bin moments later Samoa continued to exert pressure on the visitors.
IRB Sevens Player of the Year Mikaele Pesamino continued his excellent form from last week with a further try after Mai again showed great vision to create the try for the wing to score in the corner.
Lui missed the conversion to leave the scores 28-16, but Arlidge added a drop goal for Japan to take his match tally to 16 and extend the lead to 31-16 with minutes remaining.
Pesamino added his second and Samoa's third, again created by Mai, but it was too little to late as Japan held on to a much awaited victory.
Japan play Tonga next week, whilst Samoa take on Fiji in the final round of matches at the ANZ PNC 2010.
Japan coach John Kirwan:
"It was an incredible performance by the players as they knew they did not play well last weekend against Fiji. There was more accuracy and courage and the players deserve it. Inspiration comes from within and we knew that it would be physical against Samoa but I salute the players. There were six minutes of extra time but the players kept on tackling. We knew Samoa would be strong and aggressive at the break down but we just ran the ball from everywhere."