Sport | Rugby

Japan joy sinks Māori All Blacks

21-year-old forward Kenji Sato was one of the Japan XV heroes on a historic night for Japan rugby. Photo / Sky Sports/ All Blacks / YouTube

Japan’s joy was written all over their faces as they scored a first ever win over the Māori All Blacks, 26-14, in Nagoya on Saturday night (NZT), sharing the honours in the two game series after the Māori were runaway 36-10 winners in Tokyo last week.

21-year-old forward Kenji Sato was one of the Japan XV heroes on the night, coming off the bench to score the 76th minute try that ultimately sealed the game at Toyota Stadium for the Eddie Jones coached team.

The Australian said they had “experimented a little bit” in the first game and in this match “tried to play a little bit more to our strengths”.

Māori coach Ross Filipo made a handful of changes to his team for game two.

Like last week, Japan took the game to the Māori from the start, scoring the first try of the game inside the first 10 minutes from a quick penalty tap 10 metres out from the Māori line. A speedy pass out wide from the Japan half saw Tongan second-five Samisoni Tua brush off two defenders to dive over in the corner.

Japan led the Māori 8-0 at halftime.

But the Māori got away to a flyer in the second half to close the game to 8-7, with an early try to hooker Kurt Eklund, his second in two games, from an impressive lineout drive from the Māori forwards.

Playing at pace in the summer heat, the hosts were quick to answer with forward Tiennan Costley from New Zealand making a decisive linebreak for Japan that ultimately led to frontrower Shuhei Takeuchi scoring virtually untouched from a pick and go on the Māori line for an 18-7 lead.

Minutes later, the Māori got one back through a try to forward Tyrone Thompson from a lineout drive which closed the score to 18-14, after the Māori shifted the ball 60 metres downfield in an exciting passage of play.

A penalty with less than 10 minutes to play and that try to Sato in the final moments meant it would be Japan’s day.

Japan XV 26 (Samisoni Tua, Shuhei Takeuchi, Kenji Sato tries; Takuya Yamasawa pen, con, Yoshitaka Yazaki con ) Māori All Blacks 14 (Kurt Eklund, Tyrone Thompson tries; Rameka Poihipi 2 con). HT: 8-0