Japan’s rugby players will return home as national heroes after rounding off their World Cup campaign with a third victory Sunday, beating a battling United States team 28-18 at Gloucester.
The Cherry Blossoms may not have made the last eight, narrowly missing out behind South Africa and Scotland in Pool B, but have won the hearts of neutral followers.
The stunning opening match victory over the mighty South African Springboks will be long remembered for its sheer audacity, with a last-gasp try, but it has been backed up with further wins against Samoa and now the Eagles of the United States.
The only defeat came against Scotland, 45-10, as coach Eddie Jones’ team was unable to back up the opening win with a short time to recover.
Returning to Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium, Japan was able to erase the memories of that defeat by running in three tries through Kotaro Matsushima, Yoshikazu Fujita and in the second half Amanaki Mafi.
It was backed up by the ever reliable boot of Ayumu Goromaru, with two conversions and two penalties to take his tally past 50 for the competition.
The United States kept in the match through tries from Takudzwa Ngwenya and skipper Chris Wyles, but could not match the intensity of the Japanese team.
Jones, who is leaving his role after the World Cup, said the team was well placed to make an impression as hosts of the competition in 2019.
“I’ve done my job with Japan and that’s me done. I wanted to bring back pride and I’ve done that,” he told ITV Sport.