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Matsushima Hat-Trick Inspires Japan Win

Matsushima Hat-Trick Inspires Japan Win

Hosts Japan won the opening game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup as Kotaro Matsushima ran in a hat-trick in Friday’s 30-10 win over Russia. The Brave Blossoms looked nervous at the start of their big night in front of a sold-out Tokyo Stadium, who witnessed a spectacular opening ceremony before the action got underway.

Japan’s jumpy start gifted underdogs Russia the tournament’s opening try, wing Kirill Golosnitskiy going over after five minutes following a mistake by full-back William Tupou, who dropped the ball from an up and under. The hosts regathered themselves to grab the second try of the match, centre Timothy Lafaele’s impressive offload unleashing Matsushima for his first score.

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Matsushima then had a try chalked off by the video referee before going over again just before half-time as Ryoto Nakamura’s pass found him in plenty of space on the right to jog in the decisive score. With Russia’s lack of match fitness beginning to tell, Japan put the accelerator down, Pieter Labuschagne wrestling the ball away from Andrei Ostrikov before scoring his first international try not long after the restart.

Matsushima put the icing on the cake with his third try of the match, Japan taking full advantage of a mistake from Vasily Artemyev to wrap up a bonus-point win. Head coach Jamie Joseph was proud of the way his team regained their composure after a shaky start while praising their defensive work against a determined Russia side.

“The game showed the boys were nervous,” he said, “but I am proud of the way they came through it in the end. “We made a lot of unforced errors. Our kicking game was pretty poor tonight so we’ll have to fix that up quickly, but you take your hat off to the Russian guys – they put us under a lot of pressure. You’ve got to congratulate them.”

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