Japan win Asian Five Nations
Scrum.com
May 18, 2008

Japan won the inaugural HSBC Asian Five Nations when they beat Hong Kong 75-29 at Niigata's Big Swan Stadium on Sunday.

The win, which came courtesy of 11 tries and 10 conversions against three tries, a conversion and four penalty goals, sees Japan top the standings with a perfect 24 points from four games. The totals include five points for each win plus a perfect score of five from five possible bonus points for scoring four or more tries in each match played.

"We have been working very hard for five weeks, so it was important to win today," said Japan coach John Kirwan. "It is also very important for Japan and for Asia that Japan has won the inaugural HSBC Asian Five Nations Cup. So, congratulations to the boys, they worked hard and deserved the victory."

Hong Kong battled bravely today, posting the most points against Japan than any other team in the HSBC Asian Five Nations this season, (Japan had not allowed a try in its past two games and conceded 17 points to Korea on the opening weekend of Asian Five Nations play), and will be hoping to end its campaign by beating South Korea next week to finish in second place.

Although disappointed in the result, John Walters, coach of Hong Kong, found positives in today's result, saying, "I felt we were quite competitive and enjoyed a lot of possession today, but lapses in concentration let us down. We can take a lot from today's match and will work on where we let ourselves down. We certainly plan to win next week against Korea and I believe with a bit more self belief we and other Asian teams can close the gap on Japan. The HSBC Asian Five Nations gives us the perfect opportunity to build that confidence going forward."

But on a day that offered ideal conditions for running rugby in Niigata, Hong Kong was no match for Kirwan's team, which was ably led by its international contingent of players. Japan raced away to a 28-0 lead inside 27 minutes as Yuta Imamura, Bryce Robins, Shaun Webb and Takuro Miuchi all touched down.

It seemed the writing was on the wall for the Hong Kong team, particularly when Webb finished off a flowing move on the stroke of halftime to send Japan into the break 35-3 up.

But Hong Kong never gave up and fullback Rowan Varty, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union Player of the Year for 2008, ran in three tries in the second half, becoming the first Hong Kong player to record a hat trick versus Japan.

"There were a couple of charge downs and intercepts that we will need to look at," said Kirwan. "But Hong Kong fought us well and put us under pressure as the scoreboard shows. Hong Kong brought some real physicality to today's match and it was the perfect finisher to the Asian Five Nations and good preparation for us ahead of the Classic All Blacks match and the Pacific Nations Series."

Webb, Robins and replacement fullback Go Aruga all finished the day with two tries apiece, and there were further five-pointers for Hirotoki Onozawa, Ryu Koliniasi Holani and Koji Shinozuka.

James Arlidge knocked over six conversions from as many attempts, while Ryan Nicholas slotted over three from four, and Webb was on target with his only shot at goal.

Joining Varty on the scoresheet for Hong Kong were Justin Temara, who added a conversion and two penalties and Kenzo Pannell, who was successful with two penalty goals.

Hong Kong takes on South Korea next week in Hong Kong, with the winner assured of second place in the competition. Hong Kong defeated Korea the last time the two teams met in 2007 at King's Park in Hong Kong (site of next week's Asian Five Nations match), with both teams intent on victory.

On the back of its 40 - 21 win over Kazakhstan yesterday in Incheon, Korea has leapfrogged Hong Kong into second place on the HSBC Asian Five Nations Championship table with 12 points from their two wins over Arabian Gulf and Kazakhstan plus two bonus points for scoring over four tries in both of those matches.

Today's loss leaves Hong Kong on 10 points in the Asian Five Nations table from their two wins over the Gulf and Kazakhstan.

Next week's match action sees Hong Kong play Korea at King's Park, Hong Kong (kick-off 4.00pm local time) in the battle for second spot, while the Arabian Gulf makes a last ditch effort to avoid relegation to Division I in 2009, needing a win from its away match in Tadlykorgan, Kazakhstan.

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