Wales’s new cap Josh Navidi suffered a broken nose while Welsh rugby’s was bloodied as the Six Nations champions were dealt an embarrassing defeat.
Wales brought a second-string squad to Japan with an aim of developing the talent to claim silverware in years to come. But next to the Olympic stadium where Lynn Davies leapt to gold in 1964 Welsh rugby stumbled back as Japan recorded their first-ever victory against a major nation.
While the series may have finished level with a victory apiece, Wales were outscored on points and by four tries to two by Eddie Jones’s swiftly emerging Japan.
Again the conditions were oppressively hot, more than 32C, but that was no excuse. The opportunities were there but, in contrast to the previous week in Osaka, while Wales squandered chances Japan showed a new efficiency as their opponents tired.
Having escaped embarrassment in Osaka, Wales sought to get this tie over and done with by half-time but instead were again trailing, 6-3, at the break.
Harry Robinson, one of the few successes of this tour, lived up to his early billing as “the next Shane Williams” with a wonderful energy and step to match.
His break through the Japanese defence, from Dan Biggar’s inside pass, should have paved the way for the opening try. But having beaten a defender for pace, stepped past a second and wriggled out of the clutches of a third, his final pass was picked off and the chance went begging.
Others squandered overlaps and clear chances to break loose while scrum-half Lloyd Williams almost squeezed over, but his failure summed up Wales’s performance.
Their captain, Bradley Davies, said: “It was even hotter than last week and that was a big factor, but we can’t use that as an excuse.
“Japan were the better team and played some great rugby to watch – but not to play against.
“We know we still should have finished the game by half-time, but we didn’t take our chances and it was a game when everything went right for them and wrong for us.
“But the positive thing from this tour is that we have given so many young players experience of Test rugby, so we have to take this loss on the chin and learn from it.”
Having recovered at half-time, Wales sought the early strike and got it through Tom Prydie on his long-awaited return to Test rugby, three years after becoming his country’s youngest international, aged 18.
Wales’s forwards were stopped at the line-out but Biggar and Rhys Patchell combined with a sublime interchange that left Prydie with space to score. However, even Biggar lacked his usual swagger and as Welsh bodies tired, tackles were missed and Japan grew in confidence to score two tries in nine minutes.
It may have been an Australian and a Kiwi who touched down, in Craig Wing and Michael Broadhurst, but Japan’s best were all home-grown, as the half-backs once again ran the show while full-back Ayumu Goromaru was unable to miss at goal.
The game was decided by a controversial moment on 64 minutes when Patchell, among those guilty of squandering chances, appeared to have won the race to Biggar’s kick. But the English referee, Greg Garner, ruled out the score without the support of a replay, given the IRB’s decision not to send television match officials to tier-two nations. Wales were shoved off the scrum and a rapturous home crowd, Japan’s biggest for more than a decade, sensed a historic and deserved win which was wrapped up with a late penalty.
Jones said afterwards: “We’ve created history by beating a team in the world’s top 10 for the first time. It’s a massive step forward.”
Japan: A Goromaru; T Hirose (capt, Y Fujita, 22-27), M Sau, C Wing (Y Tamura, 70), K Fukuoka (Y Fujita, 79); H Tatekawa, F Tanaka (A Hiwasa, 68); M Mikami (Y Nagae, 70), S Horie (T Kizu, 70), H Yamashita (K Hatakeyama, 46), H Ono (J Ives, 74), S Ito (S Makabe, 46), H Tui (S Horie, 79), M Broadhurst, T Kikutani. Tries – C Wing, M Broadhurst. Cons – A Goromaru (2). Pens – A Goromaru (3)
Wales: Liam Williams (D Howells, 56); H Robinson, O Williams (R Patchell, 25), J Spratt, T Prydie; D Biggar, Lloyd Williams (T Knoyle, 51); R Gill (R Jones, 58), E Phillips (S Baldwin, 74), S Andrews (C Mitchell, 57), B Davies (capt), L Reed (A Coombs, 50) J King, A Pretorius, J Navidi (D Baker, 60).
Referee: G Garner (Cardiff).