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Scotland edge out Japan in first Test

Published 18/06/2016

Greig Laidlaw helped kick Scotland to victory over Japan
Greig Laidlaw helped kick Scotland to victory over Japan

Captain Greig Laidlaw kicked 16 points as Scotland overcame Japan to clinch a 26-13 victory in the opening Test in Toyota city.

Laidlaw slotted over four penalties and also added the extras for a first-half penalty try and a second-half WP Nel score as Scotland edged out their hosts in the first of two meetings.

The decisive period was on either side of half-time when Japan found themselves down to 13 men with two players in the sin bin, allowing the Dark Blues to take a firm grip on proceedings.

The match had been billed as a chance for Japan to gain revenge over Scotland for their 45-10 World Cup defeat last year - the only one they suffered in the tournament - but in the end the forward power of the visitors was too much for the gallant, ball handling style of the Brave Blossoms.

Scotland had a couple of early confidence-boosters with 2019 World Cup hosts Japan, who like to run everything, being forced to kick twice in the first two minutes.

That was quickly followed by the home side getting on the wrong side of referee Ben O'Keefe in an early piece of Scots possession and handing Laidlaw a shot at the posts. He made no mistake to open the scoring.

It was a false dawn for the visitors though as the home side quickly proved their attacking flair, a quick tap penalty in their own half releasing wing Yasutaka Sasakura down the right with support inside him. The move broke down a few feet from the Scots line but quick ball allowe d fly-half Yu Tamura to tip possession on to captain Shota Horie for score the first try of the game. Tamura converted to leave Japan 7-3 ahead.

Matt Scott showed some of the Scottish threat in response, but was hunted down on the 22 and there was no support with him, although the visitors did win another penalty as Japan tried to run out of defence and Laidlaw brought his side within a point.

Laidlaw then put Scotland ahead with a 19th-minute penalty when a scrum collapsed, but the lead did not last long with Tamura responding with a long-range effort from the halfway line.

Japan were still leading heading into the final minutes of the half but Scotland, who were winning plenty of set-piece possession but making too many mistakes to create any real threat, turned up the heat in the closing stages.

A series of maul penalties saw Japan flanker Hendrik Tui sin-binned, and Scotland responded with even more forward drives.

They did eventually let the ball out to the backs, and Stuart Hogg's outside break stretched the Japan defence and looked set to result in a certain try.

Rikiya Matsuda prevented Tommy Seymour from going over when he knocked down what would have been a scoring pass to the wing, but the intervention earned the replacement Japan full-back a yellow card and O'Keefe had no hesitation in also awarding a penalty try.

Japan did have a chance to cut the deficit before the interval but Tamura missed from long range and with only 13 men on the park at the start of the second half, they were always likely to be in trouble.

So it proved with Scotland prop Nel eventually crashing over after D amien Hoyland, the winger making his first start, had been stopped inches short after catching a cross kick.

Once back to 15 men, Japan did cut the deficit with Tamura's second penalty, but by then Scotland were starting to dominate the possession and the physical battle.

A great break from Hogg came close to earning another try but the Japan defence held firm and Scotland had to settle for a Laidlaw penalty to complete the scoring.

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