Japan outclassed Hong Kong 75-29 yesterday to win the inaugural Asian Five Nations rugby trophy with a clean sweep of four straight wins.
Japan, Asia’s top-ranked rugby nation, ran in 11 tries — converting 10 of them — in their final game, but allowed Rowan Varty to score a hat-trick for a dogged Hong Kong side who are vying with South Korea for second spot.
“I’m very happy as a coach because we’ve got plenty to work on, but still we won,” Japan coach and former All Black hero John Kirwan said. “We’ve worked hard for the last five weeks. We still have plenty to work on looking forward to the Pacific Nations tournament.”
South Korea beat Kazakhstan 41-20 in the weekend’s other game at Incheon.
Kirwan, who took the job last year and led Japan as the only Asian team in the World Cup in France, sees the new regional event as a springboard for the Pacific Nations Cup next month — and for the next World Cup in 2011.
Shaun Webb, Bryce Robbins and Go Aruga each scored a brace at the Big Swan Stadium in Niigata as the Japanese took advantage of their superior fitness.
Having earlier beaten South Korea 39-17 away, demolished the Arabian Gulf 114-6 at home and overwhelmed Kazakhstan 82-6 on the road, Japan finished the tournament with the maximum possible 24 points.
For Hong Kong, it was a first defeat in three outings before next weekend’s penultimate round of matches when they host South Korea, while Kazakhstan take on the Arabian Gulf in a battle of winless sides.
Head coach John Walters thought his all-amateur side competed well for the first 15 minutes, but “a little lack of concentration let us down.”
Hong Kong captain and No. 8 Semi Iafeta said: “We managed to run in some tries, something that we haven’t done against Japan for a while and we took our chances. We played to the best of our ability.”
Japan needed 16 minutes to open the scoring, with center Yuta Imamura diving over a kick from standoff James Arlidge.
Winger Robbins ran in Japan’s second try three minutes later and Shaun Webb the third, before Japan scored a pushover in the 28th minute.
Hong Kong hit back with two penalty goals by standoff Justin Temara in the 10 minutes before the break, but Webb scored his second try of the game on the stroke of halftime.
Arlidge converted all the tries in the first half as Japan led 35-6.
Hong Kong chalked up their first try five minutes after the break through Varty, firing up Japan to answer back with a six-try onslaught.
Kenzo Pannell’s penalty goal sparked off a minor Hong Kong scoring binge in the final 10 minutes, with Varty running in two unconverted tries.