HONG KONG: Defending champions Japan overcame a gutsy defensive effort from Hong Kong in the Asian Five Nations on Saturday, eventually running away with a 38-0 win.
Japan, who have never been beaten in the tournament, ran in six tries, but they were frustrated by a brave display from Hong Kong's part-time players who put in a massive 124 tackles compared to Japan's 39.
It was only in the last quarter that Japan were able to show their fluency, with right winger and captain Toshiaki Hirose grabbing a brace in the space of four minutes before reserve winger Yoshikazu Fujita touched down to seal the result.
"It was a tough game, we expected it," said Japan head coach Eddie Jones. "But what today's performance showed was that we have a lot of work to do. This is after all only our second game this season."
Hong Kong held Japan to just 14-0 at the break, with the back-row trio of Pale Tauti, Matt Lamming and Alex Baddeley putting in the hard yards in defence.
"It was a gutsy effort from the guys," said Hong Kong skipper and fullback Tom McColl.
"We knew Japan would come out and throw the ball around and we knew that we would have to defend our hearts out, and we did just that. I'm happy with our execution in defence but not so much with our attack."
Hong Kong head coach Leigh Jones said it was a "courageous test of fortitude" for the team, adding: "One of the key areas was the breakdown and we managed to slow down their ball."
Japan scored 18 tries in their tournament opener against the Philippines a week ago but Hong Kong superbly shut them down and the lack of quality ball prevented the Brave Blossoms from playing an expansive game.
"We didn't do as much today but even though our execution wasn't flash, I thoroughly enjoyed this game," said Japan's Jones. "We still scored 38 points and scored six tries while not conceding any points. That is good enough for me."
Japan's win made it 22 bonus-point wins from as many games in the six-year history of the tournament.
The United Arab Emirates seem to be the team in danger of being relegated from the Top Five this year after they lost their second successive match, going down 75-10 to South Korea in Al Ain on Friday. - AFP/sb