x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Japan clinch title with easy win at The Sevens

17-try victory over UAE secures Asian Five Nations title.

Japan's Takashi Kikutan is watched by the UAE's Tim Fletcher at The Sevens.
Japan's Takashi Kikutan is watched by the UAE's Tim Fletcher at The Sevens.

UAE 0  Japan 111

Japan: Tries: Arlidge, Aruga, Nicholas 3, Endo 2, Usuzuki 4, Ono, Kikutani, Holani, Webb 2, Ives. Cons: Arlidge 12, Nicholas

Man of the match: Takashi Kikutani (Japan)


DUBAI // As the UAE’s amateur players did their best to limit the damage in a chastening defeat to the World Cup-bound professionals from Japan, the visitors were focused on other things.

When Hitoshi Ono went over for Japan’s 43rd point, with still less than 20 minutes on the clock, John Kirwan, their coach, expressed mild displeasure that his captain had not dotted it down directly under the posts.

James Arlidge, the fly-half, had to take his kick at goal from five yards to the right of the posts instead.
Such is the precision the Japanese side, who will face greater challenges later this year when they face mightier teams, such as New Zealand at the World Cup, aspire to.

The cavernous difference between these two sides can be of little surprise, given the disparity in resources available to each nation.

Japan’s coaching staff had four Apple laptops between them, on which to examine the performances of their players.
While they are now set to stay on in the UAE for two days of training, the home side’s players will be thinking about a return to their day-jobs.

They will need to take up more annual leave when they travel to Hong Kong next weekend for a match which will decide who will finish in second place in the HSBC Asian Five Nations table, as last night’s win a fourth-straight title for Japan.

Ryan Nicholas, the Australia-born centre, punched holes in the UAE midfield at will, helping himself to three tries.
Such dominance was perhaps to be expected from a player who finished the 2002 season as the leading try-scorer for Otago Highlanders in Super 12.

One of those in his direct line of sight, Jon Beeton, an engineer who plays for the Dubai Exiles, had the brightest moment in an otherwise bleak evening for the home side.

His break after making an interception on his own 22 resulted in the one occasion when the UAE crossed the Japanese try line.
They were denied a try however as the referee ruled Sean Hurley, the chasing winger, had been beaten to the touchdown.

“We ran into a pretty spectacular Japanese performance,” Bruce Birtwistle, the UAE coach, said. “The speed and accuracy of their attack was sublime.

“It was a pretty hard team to defend against when you are chasing shadows.”

Even Kirwan, who had been critical of his side’s performances to date in the competition, was impressed by his charges.

“Our goal was to have a complete performance and I was very pleased with the structure we kept throughout the whole 80 minutes,” he said. “I’m pretty happy we are heading in the right direction. We have seen some improvement in the UAE team, and they were buoyed after their [win over] Kazakhstan, so we certainly did not underestimate them.”

The UAE now have to lift themselves for a trip to Hong Kong that will decide who finishes second behind the perennial victors, Japan.

Mike Cox-Hill, the national team’s captain, insists it will not be hard to rally his side for the decisive fixture.

“We are meeting Japan, who are 13th in the world, in a World Cup year, they have had two matches and they are a well-oiled machine,” he said.

“We have had a great start to this campaign. Our primary objective is to retain second place and we have all that to play for next year.”

pradley@thenational.a