Sunday, 20 September 2015

South Africa 32 v Japan 34

I decided to dispense with trying to follow the Charlton game yesterday in favour of the Rugby World Cup. Nicky Pope had just pulled off his second brilliant save to deny Jordan Rhodes after fifteen minutes so it was evident what would follow. Instead, I watched an assured and confident Ireland rack up a cricket score against Canada and then whisked my dog around the park so I could see South Africa do the same against "the small and short-sighted Japanese." 

The match at the Amex turned out to be the most inspiring rugby match I have ever seen. It was incredible and both my wife and I were punching the air at the end after the most courageous and determined passage of play you could hope to see. Japan kept in touch with the Boks throughout the match and were even a penalty ahead at times but as the second-half wore on, you instinctively new that South Africa would nail their Pacific island opponents. Sure enough, the barrel bodied Strauss staggered through the failing Japanese backline to bounce down for a try and the conversion that followed looked like the fight was over. 

But no, the Japanese came back and scored a try for themselves to get level at 29-29 but with ten minutes left you knew the South Africans would score again and when they took a penalty to edge ahead at 32-29, the game looked up. Japan made one last effort and for three or four minutes they threw themselves one after another into the massed green shirts and burrowed with support of exhausted team-mates to recycle the ball and go again. With the clock at 79 minutes and 45 seconds they were awarded a penalty five metres out from the Boks try line but close to the touchline and declined the attempt to earn themselves a shock draw. Instead they scrummed down against the mighty South African pack and they went again winning the ball and pounding the Green line. Pass after pass, tackle after tackle they held their nerve and concentration. They were awarded another penalty but again refused to kick and again took on the Bok pack which could have killed the match but they won the ball again and once more threw body after body at the South African line, eventually managing to fling the ball at speed out to their left and suddenly there was a marginal overlap. The ball was passed twice at speed to the last man who saw his chance and burst for the corner. He was caught in mid-air but he had already taken the leap knowing his momentum would carry him into the corner. He touched down before the weight of bodies rolled him out of play but Japan had won. 

There were amazing scenes in the stands as Japanese supporters burst into tears with the emotion of it and neutrals piled into the melee to celebrate the stunning victory. We watched the final try replay from behind the players and the emotion of the finish was captured at the point the ball was grounded. All of the Stewards, Ambulance staff and other officials in the corner where the try was scored went wild, punching the air and hugging one another. 

Meanwhile, I looked down at my tablet to get confirmation we had been humped three-nil, with Jordan Rhodes scoring a brace. I see, too, that Kyle Andrews described the performance as gutless. So glad I missed it.

Japan's next game on Wednesday will be against Scotland. Bloody hell.


Geoff said...

We were on the road, Dave, with the principal commentary on R5 Australia v Dunblane - another sensational victory by a team gritting its teeth and coming back to win. The score from Brighton was being given at suitable breaks in the tennis, and there was a minor whoop when Japan went 13-12 up, but "knowing" comments about the Jaapies crushing 'em in the second half. We got home for the last 15mins, and one of the remarkable sights was a S.African pack being pushed back by the Japanese. Maybe only 2 metres, but pushed back they were. They defended their line to, I think, three attacks from 5 metres, there was a sensational saving tackle by a ?75kg RednWhite on 90-oddkg of speeding Bok, and we realised that this was not a freak performance. The stoppage time was nevertheless the most nerve-shredding I can remember, but when it came to the conclusion our neighbours must have thought we'd been on the vino all afternoon.

It shoved CAFC into the uneventful shadows, which is a shame, but that's how it is at present.

Blucher said...

I agree - what a fantastic game. We watched this and the earlier Ireland game at the Richmond Fan Zone and people were going nuts when the Japanese got their winning try. Fantastic courage and belief on their part - just what sport is all about.