Japan 16 - 21 Scotland: Scots clinch series but made to fight
But they were made to fight all the way by a home side playing in front of a record crowd for a Japan home international of 34,073. Among those in attendance at the Ajinomoto Stadium was Emperor Akihito.
The Scots turned round a 13-9 half-time deficit, with Greig Laidlaw coming off the bench to kick four second-half penalties.
Japan got the only try of the game, and it was an exhilarating score. It began in the home 22 with Riyika Matsuda starting the attack. Amanaki Mafi took it on, fending off some lacklustre Scottish tackling before scrum-half Kaito Shigeno finished off a delightful move for a thoroughly merited score. Yu Tamura added the conversion to give Japan a 10-6 lead.
Scotland had taken the lead in the third minute through a penalty from Henry Pyrgos, preferred to Laidlaw as starting captain, scrum-half and goalkicker.
Japan stand-off Yu Tamura levelled matters with a penalty before Pyrgos restored the Scots’ three-point advantage.
After the Japanese try Pyrgos had the opportunity to reduce the deficit but the scrum-half missed his 23-minute penalty. He atoned two minutes later to bring the Scots to within a point. But Japan made it 13-9 through another Yu Tamura penalty on the 27-minute mark.
The home side stretched their lead to 16-9 early in the second period through another Yu Tamura penalty and this signalled the arrival of Laidlaw to replace Pyrgos.
Within two minutes the little scrum-half had reduced the arrears with a well-struck penalty and he added three more to edge Scotland ahead and ensure Vern Cotter’s side clinched the series following last weekend’s 26-13 win in Toyota City.
Like last week, it was a solid front-row effort which formed the base of the win.