Asian Five Nations
Endo shines as Japan run riot
May 1, 2010
Japan's Kosuke Endo crossed for a remarkable five tries in his side's demolition of Korea © Getty Images
Japan made a flying start to the defence of their Asian Five Nations crown with an emphatic 71-13 win over Korea in Kyungsang.
Winger Kosuke Endo was the star of the show with a remarkable five-try effort as Japan laid down an impressive marker to their Asian rivals. In a classic game of two halves, two-time champions Japan started slowly as the Koreans came out with a ferocious intent that saw them push the Japanese to the limits of their defence early on. Unfortunately, fly-half Yoon Hee-Soo missed two of three kickable penalties in the opening period which prevented the Koreans from turning that early momentum into a significant advantage on the scoreboard.
Despite a stuttering start, Japan did just enough to distance themselves over the course of the first half to take a 19-3 lead at half-time thanks to tries from hooker Shota Horie, scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and winger Endo. The ever-reliable Ryan Nicholas added two conversions in the first half, and would finish with eight on the day.
Korea's defence was characteristically strong early on but the side let themselves down through repeated infringements that saw the inevitable sin-binning - this time to Korean scrum-half Park, Wan-Yong in the 37th minute. The resulting man advantage to Japan put paid to Korea's promising start. By the time Park re-entered the contest early in the second half, Japan had extended its lead to 33-3 and would never look back.
Japan came out firing on all cylinders in the second stanza, paced by a remarkable four more tries by Endo. Japan's Yasunori Nagatomo scored in the 41st minute and from that point on it was virtually one-way traffic as Takashi Kikutani, Hitoshi Ono and Hiroki Yuhara all crossed for tries. Endo's quartet in the second half came in a 22-minute spell with the 29-year-old dotting down in the 58th, 68th, 71st and 80th minutes.
Korea managed a try by Chae Jae Young - who plays his rugby in Japan with Toshiba - and a conversion and penalty by Oh Youn Hyung, but the fact that the last Korean penalty came in the closing stages showed that they had run out of ideas.
With their three remaining games in Tokyo, Japan remain on course to be Asia's automatic entry at next year's IRB Rugby World Cup where they would be seeded in Pool A alongside the hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada. But they will need to improve on their opening 40 minutes if they are to fulfil coach John Kirwan's hopes of winning at least two games next year in New Zealand.
"The first half was not to our level," said Kirwan. "We need to work harder moving forward. But I will take it as a first game and tell the team to start from the second half."
Japan now returns home for three matches at the legendary Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo against the Arabian Gulf, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong. Next up for Korea is a much improved Arabian Gulf in Dubai in two weeks before finishing against Kazakhstan on May 22 in Seoul.
The Arabian Gulf secured their maiden Asian Five Nations win by seeing off the challenge of Hong Kong 16-9 in Bahrain on Friday. Hong Kong's opening win over South Korea had given them confidence heading into the second round but in front of a small yet committed crowd the Arabian Gulf produced the goods. Fly-half James Love slotted 11 points from the boot as they got their campaign back on track after an opening round reversal to Kazakhstan in Almaty.
The only try of the game went to the home side's scrum-half Jonny MacDonald while Hong Kong were limited to three penalties from the boot of pivot Keith Robertson. "It was a great effort from the boys," Arabian Gulf skipper Michael Cox-Hill said. "They could not have given any more than they did."
Next week sees one of the pivotal matches of the entire series as Hong Kong hosts last year's runners-up Kazakhstan.