Sports

Japan edge closer to first q-final, England first to reach last 8

England barged past 14-man Argentina and into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday (Oct 5), as Japan extended their dream run and Australian teen sensation Jordan Petaia announced himself on the big stage.

Japan’s Brave Blossoms sent home fans into ecstasy with their third straight win, a 38-19 victory over Samoa – including Kotaro Matsushima’s last-gasp fourth try to grab the all-important bonus point.

The result primes Japan, the one-time tournament whipping boys, for a shot at reaching the quarter-finals for the first time when they face Six Nations side Scotland next week in Yokohama.

“I’m really proud of our team, especially at the end there – it was a never-say-die attitude,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

“At the end of the day, the belief in our team has grown and I guess we will need it going into next week.”

Japan’s win came after Eddie Jones’ England became the first team into the last eight with a bonus-point, 39-10 victory over Argentina, aided by Tomas Lavanini’s 17th-minute red card for a high tackle on Owen Farrell.

And in Oita, Petaia, 19, crowned his international debut with a dazzling try as Australia’s youngest ever World Cup player helped the Wallabies overcome two yellow cards to beat Uruguay 45-10.

England’s qualification shows the progress of the 2003 champions since 2015, when they suffered the embarrassment of becoming the only World Cup hosts to fail to reach the knock-out stage.

The game was over as a contest when Tomas Lavinini saw red for a high tackle on Owen Farrell after only 17 minutes, clearing England’s path to a six-tries-to-one, bonus-point win.

Jonny May, Elliot Daly and Ben Youngs ran in tries in the first half, before George Ford, Jack Nowell – celebrating his return from injury – and Luke Cowan-Dickie crossed in the second period.

But between the tries it was a stop-start affair as England struggled to find their rhythm against a brave but outgunned Argentina.

Kicking woes 

“(It was) scrappy at times,” said England captain Owen Farrell.

“I thought it was a decent rate of control from ourselves but we let the game get frantic a couple of times, forced a couple of things and let Argentina into the game at times.”

Farrell, who missed all four place-kicks in the first half, before slotting four from four in the second, said he would do some extra practice before next week’s game against France.

“I fixed it up a little bit after half-time but I’ll do some work this week,” he said.

Earlier Petaia, Australia’s youngest ever World Cup player, scored one try and made another, while Tevita Kuridrani and Dane Haylett-Petty bagged two each in the Wallabies’ haul of seven against Uruguay.

Petaia had to wait 23 minutes for his first touch of the ball, but he was on the scoresheet one minute later when he burst through two defenders and spun past another on the line.

At 19 years and 204 days, it made him the second youngest try-scorer at a Rugby World Cup behind George North, who was 19 years and 165 days old when he dotted down for Wales in 2011.

Shortly afterwards, Petaia broke open the defence as he gracefully stepped and swerved inside to release Man-of-the-Match Tevita Kuridrani for the first of his two tries.

“He (Petaia) scored a try, had a big part in another and just did little things like he ran down the edge and bounced back in from touch kept the ball alive,” said Australia coach Michael Cheika.

“(He) played physical, got up and caught a few balls.”

Prop James Slipper also scored his first try – in his 94th Test. But Australia were left to ponder continuing disciplinary problems as they had two players sin-binned for high tackles. – AFP

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