World Cup - France come through Japan test
France ran in six tries in all through Julien Pierre, Francois Trinh-Duc, Vincent Clerc, Lionel Nallet and replacements Pascal Pape and Morgan Parra, but the scoreline does not reflect the character of the match which saw Japan pull to within four points late in the second half.
Japan fly-half James Arlidge scored two tries and indeed scored all their points, kicking three penalties and one conversion while missing two place kicks. Dimitri Yachvili also missed only two kicks for France, sending over four conversions and three penalties.
But France's win was marred by injuries to fly-half David Skrela and centre Fabrice Estebanez.
Marc Lievremont's side blazed out of the blocks, taking the game to the Japanese try-line with some powerful running.
After only five minutes they had the first try. After the Japanese defence had stampeded over the top of a France player, not realising he still had the ball, Raphael Lakafia was free to find Yachvili. The tricky scrum-half seemed to be in, but needed second row Pierre to finish it off.
And by the 13th minute it was 14-0, with Francois Trinh-Duc intercepting an Arlidge pass on halfway and running it in before Yachvili added a second conversion.
Japan had taken time to find their feet and must have feared for the final score at that point. Little did the 30,000-strong crowd suspect the hour that was to come from them.
Arlidge and Yachvili exchanged penalties while Japan began to make good use of their forwards, battering incessantly at the France defence. In fact France - who were next on the board with a 29th-minute penalty - were the better side only in the scrums.
On 31 minutes Arlidge displayed a piece of opportunism to score. With his side driving for the corner, he then looked for the grubber kick; when the ball came off a French body, he picked it up quickly and scampered for the line.
France did score another try before the break, a five-man line executing perfectly with Aurelien Rougerie offloading for Clerc to score.
On the stroke of half-time Japan could have scored, hooker Shota Horie finding Arlidge who in turn popped the ball to inside centre Ryan Nicholas. However he could not quite take the ball cleanly.
Arlidge sent over a penalty and Japan backed France up in defence immediately following the kick-off, but they held out.
A strong start to the second period saw Imanol Harinordoquy and Nallet denied tries for France in consecutive minutes, with the Japanese defenders somehow holding the ball up after they crashed over.
And from that moment until the final 10 minutes it was all Japan. They scored their second try on 49 minutes, the sprightly scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka bringing the ball forward before delivering to Arlidge to finish.
With that converted, Japan were within a converted try of France's score and launched a siege of the French line which ended with a penalty on 58 minutes. Whenever the white-shirted defence came in possession of the ball, they panicked with several handling errors annoying Lievremont.
The enterprise and tactical nous was appreciated by the crowd, which got right behind the Brave Blossoms despite its noisy French contingent.
French nerves were settled with a penalty on 67 minutes and their superior fitness told in the final 10 minutes as the Asian side possibly paid a price for the ferocious tackling which had pinned France back.
Nallet forced his way over after Yachvili and Parra had delivered the ball to him out of the ruck - converted to ease them 35-21 ahead - then on 77 minutes a fabulous score arrived. Full-back Cedric Heymans launched an attack down the right, fed David Marty on the inside who found Yashvili and his reverse pass was taken on Pape.
The scoreline was further distorted when Rougerie offloaded for Parra to score.
4' Pierre try: France 5-0
5' Yachvili conversion: France 7-0
11' Trinh-Duc try: France 12-0
12' Yachvili conversion: France 14-0
17' Arlidge penalty: France 14-3
20' Yachvili penalty: France 17-3
28' Yachvili penalty: France 20-3
30' Arlidge try: France 20-8
34' Clerc try: France 25-8
38' Arlidge penalty: France 25-11
49' Arlidge try: France 25-16
50' Arlidge conversion: France 25-18
58' Arlidge penalty: France 25-21
67' Yachvili penalty: France 28-21
70' Nallet try: France 33-21
71' Yachvili conversion: France 35-21
77' Pape try: France 40-21
78' Yachvili penalty: France 42-21
80+1' Parra try: France 47-21