The 2019 Rugby World Cup opened with host Japan defeating Russia 30-10 at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on 20 September. The match was broadcast on NBCSN in the U.S. and may also be viewed on NBC Sports Gold for subscribers with the RWC package on demand.
Russia kicked off to begin the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Japan mishandled the kick and Russia attacked to within 6-meters from in-goal before attacking again from a lineout. Following a penalty for not rolling away at the breakdown, Russia elected to kick to touch for a 5-meter lineout instead of going for points. That scoring opportunity was lost as the ball went to Japan and the Brave Blossoms were able to clear.
Russia returned with a high ball to Will Topou, who mishandled and Russia’s Krill Golosnitskij gathered and ran in for the first try. After the successful conversion by Yury Kushnarev, Russia led 7-0.
Japan attacked after the restart with a very fast pace. After a penalty by Russia led to a 5-meter lineout for Japan, they spun the ball wide right for a try by Kotaro Matsushima. The ensuing conversion by Yu Tamura went wide left of the posts, 5-7.
Russia had a scoring opportunity after a kick by Kushaev after Matshusima stepped into touch inside the Brave Blossoms 22-meters, however, that chance was quickly lost after losing the ball forward that allowed Japan to clear. Japan then placed Russia under pressure with a sustained attack deep inside Russian territory.
An attack by Russia with a kick ahead had Japan defending inside 5-meters. This gave Russia a chance to attack inside Japan’s 22-meters. A loose ball, however, allowed Japan to clear. Russia attacked again retrieving a kick ahead and moved the ball inside the Brave Blossoms 22-meters. Once again the ball went back to Japan allowing them to repel the challenge.
The Brave Blossoms looked to have taken the lead after an offload by James Moore to Kotaro Matsushima resulted in an apparent try in the right corner. After a TMO the try was waived off indicating that control did not exist when grounding. This resulted in a 5-meter scrum to Russia.
Disaster could have struck for Russia as an attempted box kick was blocked. Russia maintained control and was able to clear shortly after, which gave Japan an attacking chance from a lineout at the 22-meters. Fourteen phases later, Matshusima rounded the wide channel and centered the ball under the posts. Yu Tamura slotted the conversion to take a 12-7 lead in the 40th minute.
During the first half, Japan maintained a fast-paced match but handling errors after a high ball had Russia scoring first. Russia defended well and used line speed, as well as tactical kicking to place the Brave Blossoms under pressure several times while maintaining the lead until the final minute before the break. During the last ten minutes, however, the team appeared to be wearing down.
The first substitute occurred at 33 minutes with Dmitry Perov replacing scrumhalf Vasily Dorofeev after an HIA. Dorofeev would return to begin the second half.
What worked well for Japan was stretching Russia’s defense and offloading for two Matshshima tries.
An early penalty by Russia for coming in from the side of the breakdown allowed Japan to extend the lead to 15-7 after a Tamura penalty goal.
A key moment for the Brave Blossoms, had Pieter Labuschagne stripping a ball in the tackle and adding a try for a 20-7 lead. This gave momentum to Japan.
Russia showed resolve attacking from a lineout inside Japan’s 22-meters. After several picks from close range, the Brave Blossoms were penalized with Himeno coming in from the side. Japan swapped out their props with Russia electing a 5-meter scrum. After several phases, Russia was penalized for not coming in from the gate close to in-goal, allowing Japan to clear.
After a penalty by Japan, Russia elected to kick at goal with Yury Kushnarev slotting to cut the lead to 20-10.
Luke Thompson then entered the match for the Brave Blossoms becoming the oldest player to appear in a test at 38.
Following a penalty by Russia, Tamura slotted a penalty goal to push the Brave Blossoms lead to 23-10.
A poor kick by Vasily Artemyev was taken by Japan and Matshusima finished with a hat trick, which was converted by Rikiya Matsuda to lead 30-10.
The Brave Blossoms would gain a bonus-point win, but Russia had an outstanding performance. Missed tackles by Russia and early handling errors by Japan on high balls were a factor. Japan will need to correct their kicking game and minimize errors in future matches.
Kotaro Matsushima was the first player to score a hat trick for Japan in a Rugby World Cup and was the Player of the Match.
Next up for the teams will have Russia with an earlier turnaround. They will face Samoa on 24 September, while Japan faces Ireland on 28 September.
Squads + Match Preview
Japan: 1 Keita Inagaki 2 Shota Horie 3 Asaelia Valu 4 Wimpie Van der Walt 5 James Moore 6 Michael Leith (C) 7 Pieter Labuschagne 8 Kazuki Himeno 9 Yutaka Nagare 10 Yu Tamura 11 Lomano Lemeki 12 Ryoto Nakamura 13 Timothy Lafaele 14 Kotaro Matsushima 15 Will Tupou 16 Atsushi Sakate 17 Isileli Nakajima 18 Ji-Won Koo 19 Luke Thompson 20 Hendrik Tui 21 Fumiaki Tanaka 22 Rikiya Matsuda 23 Ryohei Yamanka
Russia: 1.Valery Morozov 2. Stanislav Selskii 3. Kirill Gotovtsev 4. Andrey Ostrikov 5. Bogdan Fedotko 6. Vitaly Zhivatov 7. Tagir Gadzhiev 8. Nikita Vavilin 9. Vasily Dorofeev 10. Yury Kushnarev 11. Kirill Golosnitskiy 12. Dmitry Gerasimov 13. Vladimir Ostroushko 14. German Davydov 15. Vasily Artemyev (capt.) 16. Evgeny Matveev 17. Andrei Polivalov 18. Azamat Bitiev 19. Andrey Garbuzov 20. Anton Sychev 21. Dmitry Perov 22. Ramil Gaisin 23. Vladislav Sozonov