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Monday, 11th June 2012
In Japan Sports News,

Rugby: Tonga drop kicks Japan's Pacific Nations Cup dream

Tonga put an end to Japan's dream of retaining their Pacific Nations Cup crown on Sunday, beating the defending team 24-20 in a match played in Tokyo.

The result left the tournament hosts winless and bottom of the table with two points from two games - a long way from the dizzying heights of 2011 - having lost 25-19 to Fiji on Tuesday.

Samoa, meanwhile, continued their good run at the start of the competition by seeing off Fiji 29-26 in a tightly-fought game, following their earlier 20-18 dispatch of Tonga.

It means that after two games, Samoa stand top of the group with eight points while Fiji and Tonga both have five.

The loss was a hard pill to swallow for a Japan side who battled bravely but ultimately saw their efforts come to nothing.

"We made some elementary errors at crucial times in the game," Japan coach Eddie Jones told the AFP.

"We gave them some ridiculously easy points and created enough opportunities to win the game."

Tonga fly-half Kurt Morath got the game underway with an eight-minute penalty, before Japan took the lead five minutes later with a try from Flanker Hendrik Tui and the resulting conversion by Ayumu Goromaru, the news agency reported.

It was to be a short-lived lead, however, with an error straight from the restart allowing Tonga winger Alaska Taufa to nip in and score his team's first try of the match, with Morath again getting the ball between the posts for the conversion.

A 38m penalty by Goromaru pulled scores back level, only for scrum half Taniela Moa to score Tonga's second try just before half time, with Morath duly converting.

With the score at 17-10 at half time there was still all to play for, and Japan again levelled the match after a Goromaru penalty rebounded off the post and he collected the loose ball and bundled it over the line for a try.

Locked in battle, Tonga squeezed an overlap on the lift wing and substitute Paula Kaho scored. Morath again made no mistake with the conversion, making it 24-17.

Another Goromaru penalty on 69 minutes made it a nail biting finale, but despite Tonga centre Mafileo Kefu earning a spell in the sin bin, Japan could not make the man advantage count.

With just one game remaining, Samoa now head to Tokyo to face Japan knowing that a win will guarantee that they take the trophy home with them. A consolation win for Japan, however, will put their fate in the hands of either Fiji or Tonga, who play each other in the last match of the tournament.

Written by Graham McPherson