Debut try for Cokanasiga as England rally to avoid Japan upset

Action Images via Reuters

Japan's expansive, free-flowing rugby caused the hosts all sorts of problems in the first 40 minutes, as the visitors deservedly led 15-10 at half-time, but England hit back after the break to triumph 35-15.

Jones sent on Farrell for the second half, then started emptying his bench early as several of the stand-ins spectacularly failed their auditions.

Japan's enterprising play was rewarded with tries by centre Ryoko Nakamura and captain Michael Leitch.

"They've had a tough year, a bit like us, it's their last game of the year, as it is ours so we'll both be looking for a winning performance".

England, for their part, were grateful for the halftime turnaround.

However, England came on strong in the final quarter as flanker Wilson, powerful winger Cokanasiga and hooker Dylan Hartley all crashed over secure victory and set them up nicely for a final game before the 2019 Six Nations against Australia next weekend.

In the first half Japan had 77 percent of territory and 69 percent of possession. Instead Japan roared back to totally dominate the half with quick thinking and clever, fizzing passing and they should have been more than 15-10 ahead.

The ball was worked back and across the field before finding Leitch on the right.

From the ensuing scrum, half-back Fumiaki Tanaka found Nakamura, who went in under the posts after Alex Lozowski - replaced by the influential Owen Farrell, England's regular co-captain, at half-time - missed a tackle.

"First touch of the ball we score an easy try and maybe the players thought it was just going to happen".

Despite the defeat, Japan showed that progressing to the knockout stage when they host next year's World Cup from a pool that also includes Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russian Federation (who they play next week in Gloucester, England) is not beyond the realms of possibility.

"We probably got seduced by the try in the first few minutes", said Jones.

"Japan are a hard side to play against if you haven't played them before but I think our second half response was excellent", added Jones, whose side complete their November program at home to his native Australia, fresh from a 26-7 win over Italy in Padua.

"We were actually in a pretty good position and we just needed to find the right way to play in the second half and Japan is a hard side to play if you haven't played against them before".

The match was just the second full Test Japan had played against England, who thrashed the Brave Blossoms 60-7 at the inaugural 1987 World Cup.

"The way we responded pleased me".

But as Joseph pointed out they still need to work on their discipline and accuracy.

England forward Maro Itoje: "Against any team in global rugby we know the opposition will have quality and Japan had a lot of quality, they didn't give up".

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