Rugby World Cup 2019: Japan 38-19 Samoa

Samoa was eliminated from the Rugby World Cup as Japan maintained its 100 per cent record and earned a late bonus point.

Kenki Fukuoka of Japan scores his teams third try against Samoa.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Kotaro Matsushima scored a late and potentially crucial bonus-point clinching try as Japan remained on track for a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by winning 38-19 against Samoa.

Hosts Japan, who beat Russia comfortably and stunned Ireland in their opening Pool A games, made it three wins from as many matches, moving back to the top of the table.

Timothy Lafaele and Kazuki Himeno touched down for Jamie Joseph's side either side of half-time in Toyota, while Yu Tamura moved top of the World Cup scoring charts with 18 points off the boot as Samoa were eliminated with their defeat.

Kenki Fukuoka went over in the right corner to cancel out Henry Taefu's 73rd-minute score, before Matsushima crashed in on the left after the gong to boost Japan's chances of making the knockout stages ahead of a crunch clash with Scotland.

 

Japan started brightly and took an early lead through a pair of penalties from Tamura, but Samoa were back on level terms by the 16th minute –Taefu successful from the tee either side of a missed drop-goal attempt.

Tamura nudged Japan back in front before TJ Ioane was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle and the hosts made the most of their numerical advantage, Michael Leitch – back in the starting line-up after being surprisingly dropped against Ireland – forcing a turnover that preceded Lafaele going over on the left.

Taefu split the posts either side of half-time to reduce the deficit to four points but Himeno touched down off a driving maul from a line-out in the left corner in the 54th minute to send Japan two scores clear.

Samoa upped the pressure and eventually grabbed a try when Taefu went over and converted to take his tally for the match to 19 points.

However, Fukuoka was released on the right and touched down to end any hopes Samoa had of a comeback.

Japan stayed on the front foot and clinched the bonus point at the death when Matsushima got the try his performance deserved.

Samoa and Japan players show appreciation to the fans following the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game.   -  GETTY IMAGES


Himeno comes up big

Samoa had closed the gap to just four points before Himeno powered in for Japan's second try and the number eight showed his importance at the other end too. He won a penalty that brought an end to a promising spell for Samoa and then forced a turnover to start the move that ended with Fukuoka's try.

Matsushima on fire

Even before he went over for the final score at the end, Matsushima had been a key outlet for Japan. The South Africa-born wing, who scored a hat-trick against Russia, made 110 metres and beat eight defenders in an energetic display.

Key Opta Stats:

- Japan has won its last three matches against Samoa, more than it had won in all of their previous 13 meetings (W2, L11).
- The host hasnow won its last five Rugby World Cup games on the bounce; no other non-Tier 1 nation has ever won more than two in succession.
- Taefu scored all 19 of his side's points, the third most by a Samoa player in a World Cup match (Silao Leaegailesolo 23 v Japan in 1999, Earl Va'a 21 v Georgia in 2003).
- Fukuoka came off the bench to score against Samoa, he has now scored seven tries in seven games as a replacement for Japan, including two in two substitute appearances at this RWC.
- Samoa was shown a yellow card in this game and has now received eight World Cup cards (7 yellow, 1 red) since the beginning of the 2015, the joint most of any side (Namibia – 8 yellows).
 

What's next?

Samoa will be playing for pride against Ireland in Fukuoka next Saturday, while Japan faces Scotland a day later in what will likely be a shoot-out for qualification.