Rugby World Cup 2003
Scotland make hard work of beating Japan
Iain Morrison, Townsville
October 12, 2003
Chris Paterson celebrates his try during a disappointing display by the Scots
© Getty Images
Scotland came to Townsville promising precision, error-free rugby and a job well done. What they delivered against a typically feisty Japanese team was a stuttering and wholly unconvincing display that would have seen them concede a landslide against any of the top teams. More worrying was Chris Paterson inability to find the posts. Despite grabbing two touchdowns the winger missed two kicks from six attempts which the blustery conditions cannot entirely excuse.
With ten minutes still to play the Scots were nursing a perilous four point lead and the outcome was far from certain until Paterson grabbed his second touchdown of the match thanks to a little bit of luck that he didn't deserve. Simon Taylor broke from an attacking scrum and when the number eight threw the inside pass Japanese flanker Naoya Okubo attempted the interception, juggled the ball and saw Paterson pick his pocket before streaking away for the score that calmed some very frayed Scottish nerves.
Ian McGeechan was philosophical afterwards: "I think you could see that we haven't played for five weeks. We lost our shape in the middle of the match and perhaps went to ground too early." But the coach was still able to take some positives from a disappointing performance.
"We scored five tries, a bonus point and no serious injuries in that respect we're quite pleased."
The best handling throughout the match came from Japan who also showed the most spirit and all the enterprise on show here this evening and the crowd quickly decided which side was worth their support. Off all the Scots on the field perhaps only hooker Robbie Russell can hold his head high after putting in a respectable performance on his return to what was his home town.
The beginning of the match went according to script as Paterson crossed the Japanese just five minutes in following a scrappy build up and then converted his own try. Stuart Grimes also crossed for a touchdown on seventeen minutes and Paterson kicked a penalty but that was the sum total of their first half efforts and Japan probably enjoyed as many scoring chances as the Scots.
Twice in the first forty minutes the Scottish midfield was exposed as first number eight Takeomi Ito and then centre Yukio Motoki carved huge holes in the blue defence. The first break almost brought a try for left winger Hirohito Onoazama and the second did the same for Daisuke Ohata on the opposite flank although both speedsters were bundled into touch short of the line.
Meanwhile the Scots were making a meal of the minnows. Too much ball was kicked aimlessly away by both sides and not one blue shirt had the gumption or the imagination to run it back at their opponents. They were also guilty of far too many basic errors. The first thing they teach kids at school is that you don't let a rugby ball bounce but John Petrie and Ben Hinshelwood were obviously playing truant that day.
So flyhalf Keiji Hirose was able to kick two penalties to keep his side interested in the outcome and Japan went into the half-time dressing room just 15-6 adrift. The next score was going to be important and the introduction of Kiwi flyhalf Andrew Miller helped ensure it went to Japan who suddenly produced the best rugby of the match. The Scottish defenders were stood up by a well-worked midfield move while the ball went wide to Onozawa on the left wing who beat Hinshelwood to the corner.
Strangely the referee wanted video evidence of the score and duly got it but the man with the TV was less accommodating to Scotland just minutes later when Logan thought he'd grabbed a try after hacking the ball up to the line but knocking on before touching down.
Stuart Grimes then fumbled with the line begging to end a long period of Scottish pressure and the Japanese flair on the counter-attack showed that they had invention enough for two teams...just as well because their opponents displayed absolutely none. Still the Scots blushes were spared as Paterson took his gift of a try.
Simons Taylor and Danielli followed suit, the latter just 30 seconds after replacing Paterson, to give Scotland a bonus point their performance hardly merited.
Scotland: B Hinshelwood, C Paterson (Danielli 80 mins), A Craig, J McLaren, K Logan, G Ross 9Townsend 67 min), B Redpath, T Smith, R Russell, B Douglas (Kerr 75 mins), S Murray (Beattie 67 mins), S Grimes, J White, J Petrie (Leslie 58 min), S Taylor.
Japan: T Matsuda, D Ohata, R Parkinson, Y Motoki, H Onozawa, K Hirose (Miller 53 mins), T Tsuji (Sonoda 53 mins), S Hasegawa, M Amino (Sakata 45 mins), M Toyoyama, H Kiso, A Parker, N Okubo (Watanabe 70 min), T Miuchi, T Ito.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Aus).