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Japan Wins 5th HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5 Title

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It may be a new Japan team but the result was just the same as the Brave Blossoms wrapped up the 2012 HSBC Asian Five Nations (HSBC A5N) Top 5 with an emphatic 67-0 win over Hong Kong.

 In Saturday’s other HSBC A5N Top 5 match, promoted Division I champions Korea dismantled Kazakhstan 87-17 in Almaty to grasp second place on the Series table with one week remaining.

Japan’s victory – their 20th straight bonus-point win in the competition – ensured Japan won the title for the fifth straight year. And they did so playing a brand of rugby that coach Eddie Jones believes could get them into the world’s top 10.

“That was our best performance of the HSBC Asian Five Nations,” said Eddie Jones. “We had the game won by halftime. We played with a fair bit of discipline and control and I’m really pleased with the growth of the team.”

Hong Kong was overwhelmed by the pace and power of Japan who dominated the breakdown area to run in 11 unanswered tries in a slick display in front of heir home fans at Prince Chichibu Stadium.

Hong Kong had hoped to silence the crowd by using their big front five to deny the Japanese any possession, but from the opening exchanges it was evident that Japan were too strong up front and too quick in the backs for an upset to occur.

Left winger Hirotoki Onozawa led the try-spree with a brace of tries either side of halftime as Japan cruised to a straightforward victory against a Hong Kong team who had hoped they could repeat their performance from last year when they ran the Asian champions close in a 45-22 loss.

Onozawa scored the 50th test try of his career when he smartly stepped outside Hong Kong fullback Ross Armour to touch down for Japan’s fifth try of the first half as Hong Kong struggled to shut down the relentless Japanese attack.

Hong Kong was forced into making 130 tackles in the match as a rampant Japan pressed forward. It wasn’t long before the constant attacks resulted in holes appearing in defence.

“You can’t expect to keep tackling throughout the game, something had to give and it did,” said Hong Kong senior coach Leigh Jones. “I thought we did well in the first half defensively, but what was disappointing was that we couldn’t get our own game going. Trying to combat Japan’s power, pace and physicality is very difficult.”

Yu Tamura opened the scoring today in just the fifth minute and further tries by Takamichi Sasaki, Kosei Ono, Toshiaki Hirose and Onozawa saw Japan lead 29-0 at the break.

Onozawa increased the lead two minutes into the second half, a landmark try for the 34-year old as it moved him past Rory Underwood into fourth spot on the list of all-time test-match try scorers.

“He deserves all the plaudits he is currently getting,” said Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones. “Given how the game has evolved over the last 10 years, for him to still have the pace speaks volumes.”

Onozawa was followed onto the scoresheet in the second half by Michael Leitch, Shoji Ito, Ayumu Goromaru, Kensuke Hatakeyama and Ryuhei Arita, with Goromaru finishing the day with six conversions. Goromaru has built an unassailable lead in the points scoring stakes in this year’s HSBC A5N Top 5 with 87 points from four matches (five tries, 31 conversions).

“We are learning how to manipulate defenses and take teams into one area and then attack where they are not,” explained Japan coach Eddie Jones. That ability resulted in a number of try scorers going over unopposed this afternoon as Japan simply stretched the Hong Kong defence to breaking point.

“This new style of Japanese rugby is very effective. The challenge for us is to get bigger, fitter and stronger for next season so that we can match Japan in the collision area,” added Leigh Jones.

But first Hong Kong will have to make certain that they end their HSBC Asian 5 Nations campaign on a winning note when they take on Kazakhstan in their final game at home next Saturday. A win at home versus the Nomads will see Kazakhstan drop down to the first division for the first time in tournament history, ensuring that Hong Kong will join Japan as the only team in the history of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations to have never been relegated from the Top 5.

In the curtain-raiser to Saturday’s match, the Japan women’s XV dispatched their Hong Kong counterparts 61-15. Japan winger Chikami Inoue scored four tries in today’s match, with flanker Chisato Yoko and reserve winger Keiko Kato both adding a brace. Other Japan try scorers were winger Tomoe Shinomiya, hooker and captain Misaki Suzuki and reserve Chiharu Nakamura. Flyhalf Rinako Yokoyama added three conversions. Hong Kong’s tries came through lock Samantha Scott, winger Natasha Olson-Thorne and centre Cheng Tsz Ting.

In the other HSBC A5N Top 5 match in Almaty, Korea dispatched Kazakhstan 87-17. Korea started the scoring early with the first try in just the second minute through centre Kim Nam Wook, who scored a brace today, as did winger Kim Gwong Min.

Korea flyhalf Oh Young Hyung accounted for 27 points with a try, two penalties and 8 conversions, while burly No 8 Han Kun Kyu scored a hat-trick. Other tries came from scrumhalf Yang Young Hun, lock Park Soon Chai, hooker Hwang Min Seo, winger Cho In Soo and reserve back Jegal Bin. Kazakhstan’s points came through tries from Nikita Trifimov, Alexandr Zhakharov and Yevgeniy Shekurov. Captain Ildar Abdrazhakov added a conversion.

Saturday’s results see Hong Kong fall to third place in the Series table on 7 points, while Korea resume their traditional second in Asia standing on 11 points from two wins and one loss. On the bye this weekend, UAE remains in fourth on six points, while Kazakhstan will have a do or die battle in Hong Kong next week with a win and a UAE loss without bonus point crucial to its hopes of staying in the HSBC A5N Top 5 in 2013.

 Hong Kong host Kazakhstan next week, while UAE travels to Seoul.

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