Rugby Union: Japanese still stuck at the bottom of the hill

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The Independent Online
East Wales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38

Japan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

THE JAPANESE, so we are told, came to Wales to learn. Last night they were taken to the top end of a Welsh valley and learnt all about how filthy Welsh weather can be. And as they lost again, they are evidently learning the hard way.

Perhaps the idea was to show the tourists the sights, since Abertillery Park's setting is among the finest in rugby. But as it was dark you would never have known and the clouds were so low that the soaring hillsides would probably have been invisible even in broad daylight.

East Wales, in fetching purple, were a less motley crew than their disparate make-up suggested, mainly because all but one of the pack were from Cardiff. The Japanese paid them the compliment of fielding 12 of their likely Test side.

Japan's imported players - last night two Samoans, a Fijian and a Tongan - give them brawn, but the way they run the ball is too frenetic to give them any consistent penetration. In consequence of this and other failings, the first week of the tour has been calamitous.

A 60-point drubbing by Wales A, a player - and a trainee Buddhist monk at that - sent off in the one-point win over Dunvant, and now this. About the only thing that has gone right is that Hirofumi Ouchi's derisory suspension was for just one match, last night's.

Tupo Fa'amasino's try was the product of clever interplay with Tasuku Fujihara, adhesive Samoan hands gathering the wing's kick despite the ball's sodden state. That, however, was a rare moment of light relief for Japan.

Derwyn Jones's clean lineout take, one of many, had already been exploited with a try by Jonathan Humphreys and in the second half Luc Evans' diagonal run created space for a second by Alun Harries.

Evans also kept the score moving with his goal-kicking, and in the end East Wales cut loose, the Japanese defence disintegrated, and the elusive Harries completed his hat- trick with two more tries before an injury-time response by Fujihara.

East Wales: Tries Harries (3), Humphreys; Conversions Evans (3); Penalties Evans (4). Japan: Tries Fa'amasino, Fujihara; Conversion Maeda.

EAST WALES: L Evans (Treorchy); A Harries (Newbridge), S Lewis (Pontypridd), J Hewlett (Cardiff), D Manley (Pontypridd); D Rees (Newport), A Booth (Cardiff); N Bezani (Pontypridd), J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, A Rees, D Jones, H Stone, O Williams (capt), M Budd (all Cardiff). Replacements: P Thomas (Pontypridd) for Stone, 47; A Moore (Cardiff) for Booth, 49.

JAPAN: T Maeda; T Fujihara, M Fujikake, T Fa'amasino, Y Yoshida; K Matsuo, R Onitsuka; O Ota, M Kunda (capt), K Takahashi, H Kaneshiro, B Ferguson, S Kaleta, S Latu, S Nakashima.

Referee: B Campsall (England).