Japan notch first win under Joseph

The Rugby Championship
by AFP

2019 Rugby World Cup hosts Japan kicked off their European tour with a confident 28-22 win over Georgia at Tbilisi's Mikheil Meskhi stadium on Saturday.

Japan, who produced the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history last year when they beat giants South Africa 34-32 in the pool stage, will now head to Wales and also play Fiji in France.

The Japanese, easily beaten at home by Argentina last week, started in lively fashion with utility back Kotaro Matsushima crossing for a try in the eighth minute before fly-half Yu Tamura added a penalty.

But the home team, on an eight-game winning streak, fought back through Vito Kolelishvili and scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze, who landed a try apiece, while fullback Merab Kvirikashvili added a conversion to give Georgia a 12-8 lead at halftime.

It was a tight tussle in Georgia. Photo: Getty ImagesWinger Lomano Lemeki restored Japan's lead with a try four minutes after the interval but Georgia replied with a try by flanker Beka Bitsadze, Kvirikashvili hitting the extras and a penalty for a 22-13 advantage.

Japan picked up steam as Lemeki chalked up his second try, Tamura bagging the extras before winger Kenki Fukuoka also crossed the whitewash to hand the visitors a narrow lead.

Tamura rounded off the scoring with a penalty goal with five minutes to go.

Georgia, who also enjoyed a good World Cup with victories over Tonga and Namibia to ensure their participation in the 2019 edition, are currently 11th in the world rankings and will take on Samoa in Tbilisi before playing Scotland at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park.

Georgia 22

(Tries: Kolelishvili, Lobzhanidze, Bitsadze. Cons: Kvirikashvili 2) Pen: Kvirikashvili)

Japan 28

(Tries: Matsushima, Lemeki 2, Fukuoka, Cons: Tamura. Penalty: Tamura 2)