Wishing for a break from all the football going on at Euro 2012, Mostyn and I decided to head on down to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground near Gaienmae station not too far away from Omotesando. The Japan “Cherry Blossoms” were playing host to Samoa pitting the worlds 16th and 9th best international Rugby teams against each other according to the IRB (International Rugby Board) world rankings.
This wasn’t actually my first time to see the Japan national team in action as I saw them get thrashed 47-18 by Ireland in the same place back on the 19th of June 2005. Samoa are actually ranked only one place behind the Irish but this tie didn’t quite get me as excited as that one.
The earlier clouds and light rain in the day cleared away though and it was a very hot and humid afternoon for this IRB Pacific Nations Cup match.
Japan dominated the early part and scored a couple of good tries down the left side but tellingly failed to convert them which ultimately would prove crucial as back came Samoa towards the end of half. Having lead 16-0 at one stage Japan’s lead was cut to just two points by half time and it got worse soon after the restart before a late rally proved too little too late.
In fact with 79 minutes on the clock Japan had the chance to kick for glory but having previously come up with an awful attempt from the right touchline the crowd wasn’t too expectant. I think the kicker actually changed and though he came close the kick fell just short. It did provide some brief moments of atmosphere to the tune of “Ni-ppon” but the final whistle blew seconds later.
Final score: Japan 26 – 27 Samoa
With Japan set to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 it was interesting to gage the interest of the locals. Apart from a small minority of die-hard fans its fair to say that Japan isn’t exactly gripped by Rugby fever and is gonna have its work cut-out to promote the game over the next seven years and let the public know that its actually hosting a World Cup.