Japan. . .24
WHEN the Japanese last toured Wales, they were greeted by a huge, well-meaning banner strung across the main street in Treorchy proclaiming 'Rhondda Welcomes the Japs'.
At Dunvant the village club specially erected a flagpole and raised what may well have been the biggest Japanese flag in the world. It flapped above the tiny ground, transformed for its first visit by an international side.
But relations were not so cordial on the field. Both packs eventually squared up to each other in a brawl of flailing arms, which ended with the Japanese flanker Hirofume Ouchi being sent off. Everybody else had confined their violence to fists; he had used the boot.
He had been arguably the best forward, running through the Dunvant pack to score the try which snatched back the lead. Two minutes later, he loped over 40 yards to set up Tasuku Fujihara for the try which put the game out of reach. It also just about kept the Japanese tour alive after the thumping defeat by Wales A.
Dunvant's converted try on the final whistle was a consolation. They were well beaten by then, never really looking like the First Division side they have just become. The pace of top-flight rugby seems too fast for them.
Apart from that small detail little has changed at the club just outside Swansea. A handful of constables are now dispatched to the ground where last season there were none; there is a brand new 400-seater stand; the village now has a one-way system because of match traffic. It remains to be seen if it will be needed next season.
Dunvant: D Evans; P Farnworth (P Hopkins, 44 min), N Bolton, W Lloyd, C Young; M Thomas, N Lloyd; M Waygood, D Morris (M Bernard, 70 min), R Llewellyn, D Niblo, D Crane (capt), C Davies, C Butler, P Morris.
Japan: T Maeda; T Fujihara, M Fujikake, T Faamasino, Y Yoshida; S Aoki (capt), R Onitsuka; K Kimura, E Hirotsu, M Nakamura, Y Sakuraba, B Ferguson, S Kaleta, S Ono, H Ouchi.
Referee: J Bacigalupo (Scotland).
Scores: Maeda (pen, 4 min, 0-3); Thomas (pen, 5 min, 3-3); Fujikake / Maeda (try / con, 12 min, 3-10); Thomas (pen, 27 min, 6-10); Thomas (pen, 45 min, 9-10); Morris / Thomas (try / con, 50 min, 16-10); Ouchi / Maeda (try / con, 58 min, 16-17); Fujihara / Maeda (try / con, 60 min, 16-24); Lloyd / Thomas (try / con, 82 min, 23-24).