Match Centre: Rugby World Cup Pool D: Japan 28-22 Samoa

Michael Leitch of Japan scores his team's second try during the Rugby World Cup game against Samoa
Michael Leitch of Japan scores his team's second try during the Rugby World Cup game against Samoa
©Photo by Pauline Ballet - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Japan 28-22 Samoa, Pool D, Stadium de Toulouse

Japan registered their second win in the ongoing Rugby World Cup as they defeated Samoa 28-22 in the Pool D clash at Stadium de Toulouse on Thursday.

The result also meant Japan surpassed Samoa to reach the second position in the table with nine points while confirming a quarter-final berth for England, who have 14 points with a game to go.

Samoa will have another crack at England while Japan will be lining up against Argentina which could decide on the second quarter-finalist in the group.

Both teams were forced to make late changes to the game as Samoa were without their captain Chris Vui with Steven Luatua replacing him while Fritz Lee was handed the armband. Japan also saw Naoto Saito replacing Yukata Nagara at scrum-half while Kenta Fukuda was added to the replacements.

The injury setbacks completed as Taleni Seu was sidelined in the 8th minute for Samoa with Brian Alainu’u’ese, who was not part of the initial 23 man squad named came into the action.

It was Japan, who struck the first blow as Pieter Labuschagne dived in the corner after Lomano Lemeki's kick breached the defence of Samoa and Rikiya Matsuda kicked the conversion to make it 7-0. As Ryoto Nakamura was penalised for not releasing the ball, Samoa managed to open their account in the 25th minute when D'Angelo Leuila kicked a three-pointer.

However, Matsuda restored the seven point lead for the Brave Blossoms after Japan won a penalty in midfield and the fly-half made no mistake with a toe poke effort making the scoreline 10-3. Jamie Joseph's men stepped up the gears as looping pass from Matsuda allowed Michael Leitch to touchdown in the 32nd minute. Matsuda followed with the extras to extend the lead to 17-3.

Shortly, Samoa were down to 14 players temporarily with Jonathan Taumateine sent to sin-bin for a dangerous tackle before Leuila was the next player to be sidelined by an injury as Danny Toala replaced him. Japan had their problems with the discipline as well with Shota Horie sent to sin-bin after clashing head with Duncan Paia’aua.

Just as the break was approaching, Samoa managed to narrow down the gap with Seilala Lam touching down after a powerful maul but Leali’ifano, who took over the kicking duty missed the conversion from wide as the teams completed the opening half with a 17-8 scoreline.

Samoa suffered early setback in the second half as Ben Lam became their second player to be yellow carded after his shoulder came in contact with the neck of Labuschagne’s neck. The decision was later upgraded to a red card following a review leaving Samoa a player down for the remainder of the game.

Japan made use of the momentum as Kazuki Himeno scored their third try coming at the back of a maul but Matsuda missed the conversion but made amends with a penalty goal in the 56th minute to make it 25-8. Japan had a sigh of relief with Labuschagne returning back to the field following a Head Injury Assessment.

Samoa looked to claw their way back into the game with tries from Duncan Paia'aua and Christian Leali'ifano taking the score to 28-22 with two minutes left in the game before Japan held their nerve and ensured they boosted their chances of a quarter-final with a thrilling win.

Points Table: Pool D

Position Team Played Won Lost Points
1 England 3 3 0 14
2 Japan 3 2 0 9
3 Samoa 3 1 2 6
4 Argentina 2 1 1 4
5 Chile 3 0 3 0

What's Next:

Samoa will be taking on England in their final group stage game at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on 7th October while Japan will be taking on Argentina at Stade de la Beaujoire on 8th October.

Match Reactions:

Samoa captain Fritz Lee admitted their indiscipline costed them the game.

"The effort was there. Just the little things we didn’t capitalise on, the basics of the game. Japan were more clinical than us. We have to respect the ball more than we did tonight.

"Our penalty count didn’t help us, but the effort was there. We could have turned the game around at the end but we fell short."

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph credited his side's ability to cope up with the physicality of Samoa.

"It was a really tough game and we had to work bloody hard to get the win. Hats off to the Samoan boys – they really took it to us.

"They [Samoa] are big fellas, aren’t they? They got on top of us at times and we had to really keep at it for the whole game. The commitment was certainly there but there were one or two things to work on for next week."

Team line up:

Japan Lemeki, Matsushima, Riley, Nakamura, Naikabula, Matsuda, Saito; Inagaki, Horie, Gu, Cornelsen, Fakatava, Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno (c).

Reserves: Sakate, Millar, Ai Valu, Dearns, Shimokawa, Fukuda, S Lee, Osada.

Samoa Paia’aua, Fidow, Manu, Leuila, B Lam, Leali’ifano, Taumateine; Lay, S Lam, Alo-Emile, Luatua, McFarland, Taleni Seu, F Lee (c), Taufua.

Reserves: Malolo, Lay, Alaalatoa, Alainu’u’ese, Motuga, Matavao, Fomai, Toala.