Wales waltzed to an annihilation of Japan to move into second in Pool B and keep alive their World Cup quarter-final hopes after an entertaining, and not wholly one-sided match at a half-full Millennium Stadium last night.
Japan's cause was not helped when they lost their inspirational inside centre Shotaro Onishi midway through the second half, but they were already well-beaten.
It took Wales a while to realise they were in the match. Twice they fell behind against a side they had never lost to in their 10 previous matches. The Japanese were adventurous and unafraid to try anything, frequently counter-attacking from deep in their own 22, even on occasion from behind their own line.
Japan opened the scoring with a third minute penalty, but then suffered an unlucky blow when an untidy kick ahead by Jamie Robinson caught a Japanese player unawares and, crucially, it also played all the Welshmen in front of the kicker, on-side. Stephen Jones scooped it up, found Dafydd James outside him and the right winger, having drawn the remnants of the cover, sent lock Alun-Wyn Jones over.
There was a suspicion of over-confidence to the Welsh approach. That was how the Japanese scored their wonderful first breakaway try from almost on their own line. Wales had been awarded a five-metre scrum after Alun-Wyn Jones had what looked like a good try disallowed by French referee Joel Jutge.
With barely a Welshman left at the breakdown the enterprising Japanese No 8 Christian Loamanu, a Tongan by birth, picked up and set up a wonderful move that culminated in the Japanese right winger Kosuke Endo touching down for an unconverted try.
That was the jolt Wales needed. They switched into professional mode, applied pressure in the right places and were rewarded with a penalty which Stephen Jones converted.
Once back in front it was apparent that Wales were not going to fall behind again. But beating the Japanese rush defence demanded no little wit. Midway through the first half Jamie Hook received the ball out on the left shaped to cut inside, the defenders swallowed it and the Wales centre spurted up the touchline for a fine try.
Two more touchdowns followed, each one capping some excellent approach work, the first was scored by hooker Rhys Thomas; the second, after a break by Stephen Jones, was finished off by Kevin Morgan, which earned Wales a precious bonus point. Sandwiched between these two tries was a second penalty for Japan by the influential Onishi.
There was a lot more of the same after the interval, and not just from Wales. Japan managed another spectacular try, this time a solo effort by their electrically quick left wing Hirotoki Onozawa who snatched up a loose ball some 60 metres out and left a litter of red-faced, red-shirted defenders in his jet-stream. But by then Wales were over the hills and far away, having added further tries through scrum-half Mike Phillips, winger Shane Williams – who was winning his 50th cap – and Dafydd James.
Wales: Morgan, D. James, Robinson, Hook, S. Williams, S. Jones, Phillips, D. Jones, R. Thomas, Horsman, W. James, A. Jones, Charvis, M. Williams, Popham. Replacements: Shanklin for Robinson (73), Sweeney for S. Jones (54), Cooper for Phillips (57), Jenkins for Horsman (65), Evans for A. Jones (52), Owen for Popham (58). Not Used: Bennett.
Japan: Loamanu, Endo, Imamura, Onishi, Onozawa, Robins, Yoshida, Nishiura, Matsubara, Soma, H. Ono, Thompson, Watanabe, Makiri, Miuchi. Replacements: Taira for Imamura (51), Kusumi for Onishi (52), Kim for Yoshida (66), Yamamura for Nishiura (54), Inokuchi for Matsubara (75), Kiso for Thompson (66), Asano for Makiri (52).
Referee: J Jutge (France).Reuse content