Rugby: Wales escape with last-gasp drop goal against Japan

Wales James King is tackled by Japan's Timothy Lafaele. Photo / AP
Wales James King is tackled by Japan's Timothy Lafaele. Photo / AP

Wales dropped a goal with nine seconds remaining to snatch a 33-30 win over Japan in a rugby thriller in Cardiff on Saturday.Replacement flyhalf Sam Davies, playing his second test, booted the winning points with his left foot from 30 meters to secure the Welsh a ninth victory in 10 games over Japan.

"It was a get-out-of-jail-free card, really," Wales captain Sam Warburton said. "Fair play to Sam for stepping up at the end. It takes a lot of guts to do that, especially on his second cap, and he was under a heck of amount of pressure to slot that."

Wales made 10 changes following last weekend's 24-20 win against Argentina and it showed in a performance that lacked consistency and finesse, despite recalled pair Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts as well as captain Sam Warburton scoring tries. Leigh Halfpenny started on the wing instead of at fullback and kicked 15 points.

Japan looked the more threatening team with ball in hand, as wings Akihito Yamada and Kenki Fukuoka scored tries along with substitute Amanaki Lotoahea.

Flyhalf Yu Tamura added three penalties and two conversions.

Two of those penalties put Japan 6-0 ahead, with his second successful shot at goal coming after Wales fullback Liam Williams was sin-binned for obstruction on Yamada.

Wales responded in the 11th minute after possession was rapidly moved wide and Lydiate - back after being dropped from the matchday 23 against Argentina - touched down for his first try for Wales.

Japan's initial promise quickly evaporated as Wales turned the screw up front. The visitors ran out of defensive numbers as center Jonathan Davies made a half-break and his midfield partner Roberts effortlessly finished it off.

Halfpenny converted for 14-6, but Japan hit back strongly before the break with a try gifted by Wales.

A pass out wide from flyhalf Gareth Anscombe failed to find a colleague and Yamada gathered the bouncing ball to claim his 14th try in 17 tests.

"You can tell they are well-conditioned and a well-drilled team," Warburton said of Japan, "they just kept coming."

Halfpenny extended Wales' lead through an early second-half penalty and the hosts went further in front when lock Alun-Wyn Jones sprinted into space from a lineout and found Warburton on his right shoulder, allowing the captain to finish. Halfpenny's conversion made it 24-13.

Japan's retort was a brilliant try that owed everything to slick passing and rapid handling, with Fukuoka applying a stunning finish in limited space.

Another Halfpenny penalty took Wales seven points clear, yet the Japanese immediately reclaimed field position and they gained a penalty that Tamura landed.

Halfpenny's penalty made it 30-23, but Japan was not to be denied as Lotoahea cut inside down the right flank and handed off a tackler to touch down six minutes from time.

Tamura brilliantly converted to make it 30-30, but Davies had the final say."It's not the result we wanted but we played until the 80th minute and I am really proud of the boys," Japan No. 8 Amanaki Mafi said. "We came here to challenge. Wales are a tough team. We like to challenge the best in the world regularly so we are looking forward to Fiji next week."

- AP

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