Japan's rugby stars celebrated as if they had won the Rugby World Cup yesterday after an injury time try earned a 12-12 tie with Canada.
The game was two minutes into time added on and John Kirwan's team, already sure of elimination and playing its final group match, trailed 12-5 in Bordeaux when Koji Taira dived over in the corner.
Shotaro Onishi then coolly added the conversion and the Japanese players, some in tears, hugged each other, knowing their unwanted record run of 13 World Cup losses in a row had come to an end.
"I think today was like a World Cup final for both Japan and Canada and I think 40,000 people have probably gone away pretty happy," Kirwan said.
"We showed a lot of courage. I don't think we played particularly well, I felt we could have played a lot better. To come out with the draw is bitter sweet."
Japan led 5-0 at halftime thanks to Kosuke Endo's 12th minute try after a solo run to the line. But Canada hooker Pat Riordan came out of the sinbin to lead a second half comeback with a 49th minute try before winger Dth (cq) Van der Merwe went over for a converted score in the 65th, taking a well-flighted kick by scrumhalf Morgan Williams.
"We have to look at ourselves and make sure we do enough to win games," said Canada coach Ric Suggitt. "We had opportunities in the second half to pull away and we didn't do it."
Canada captain Williams was furious that South African referee Jonathan Kaplan did not blow full time earlier. "The ball went out in the 81st minute and then we played an extra three minutes after that," Williams said. "I don't know, was his watch broken, or was he blind?"