France battled back from an eight-point half-time deficit to record a 20-15 victory over Japan in their July international in Tokyo on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a hard-fought battle and Japan will be kicking themselves as they held the lead for long periods until a superb try from Baptiste Couilloud late in the second half sealed France’s win and a 2-0 series triumph.
The visitors’ other points came via a five-pointer from Matthis Lebel, while Matthieu Jalibert and Maxime Lucu succeeded with a penalty and a conversion apiece. For Japan, Ryohei Yamanaka scored a brace of tries and Seungsin Lee slotted a penalty and a conversion.
France held the upper hand during the opening exchanges and took the lead in the ninth minute when Lebel rounded off after running onto a skip pass from Virimi Vakatawa.
Lucu added the extras but it didn’t take long for the hosts to respond and they did it in style when Yamanaka crossed for a deserved five-pointer. This, after Gerhard van den Heever found himself in space and set off on a 30-metre run down the left-hand touchline before offloading to Yamanaka, who dotted down.
Although they failed to convert, that try was a shot in the arm for the Brave Blossoms as they soon took control of proceedings.
Lee succeeded with a penalty midway through the half and with the score 8-7 in their favour, the home side continued to hold the edge as the half progressed.
France battled to gain momentum and seemed shell-shocked by the ferocity of their opponents’ onslaught. And on the stroke of half-time Yamanaka was rewarded with his second try, scored in similar fashion to his first when he gathered an inside pass close to France’s try-line from Michael Leitch before crossing the whitewash.
That meant Japan were leading 15-7 at half-time but France reduced the deficit to five points by the 45th minute when Lucu added a penalty. The next 15 minutes were evenly contested with a Jalibert three-pointer off the kicking tee the only points during that period.
With time running out on the clock, Les Bleus desperately needed a five-pointer and that came in the 68th minute courtesy of that moment of magic from Couilloud, who caught the hosts’ defence by surprise when he launched a break off the back of a scrum midway between the halfway line and Japan’s 22 before crossing for a deserved try under the posts.
There was drama in the game’s closing stages when Japan thought they had drawn level after Tevita Tatafu crossed the whitewash off the back of a lineout deep inside France’s 22. His effort was disallowed, however, when television replays revealed he had lost control of the ball while dotting down.
The closing minutes were frantic as the Brave Blossoms spent most of that time camped in France’s half but the visitors held on for the win.
The article July internationals: France given a scare by Japan in Tokyo appeared first on Planetrugby.com.