Japan battle to win over Wales to claim Shield, but is it too little, too late for their Sevens Series campaign?
Doomed Japan wrap up a 28-21 victory over Wales in the Shield
It was maybe a case of too little and too late for Japan to really help their survival in the HSBC Sevens World Series next season but their 28-21 victory over Wales in the Shield final showed that talent that still simmers in their set-up.
That much was acknowledged with a rueful smile by Damian Karauna as the win gave his team four points but still sees them sitting rooted to the bottom of the standings, eight points behind Russia with now just three tournaments left.
“To stay in touch with Russia is the key and they got five here to our three so we still have a lifeline,” said Japan coach Damian Karauna. “We just have to take it forward and step by step but, to be honest, we’re running out if time.”
It’ll need far more consistency and many more efforts like the one produced late against the Welsh, when the Japanese let the ball – and their speedsters – fly.
Kameli Soejima’s try with the clock wound completely down – combined with Kosuke Hashino’s conversion – broke a tie and handed the Japanese a piece of the silverware.
Their many fans at the Hong Kong Stadium roared their approval as though they’d just won the Cup, and the Japanese players responded in kind. It was a reflection perhaps of just how miserable Japan’s season has been and Karauna was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“We just went out there against Wales wanting to try a few different things – and they paid off. That was the difference,” said Karauna. “We knew how to play them but we just haven’t been finishing teams off but that was a good, honest 14 minutes of footy. We’ve been looking for consistency but we are still letting teams get through untouched for tries. At this level that will always hurt you.”
Singapore looms and then a rough ride into the two European legs in Paris and London for a team who’ve failed to flatter since coming through the qualifying here last year.
Wales – who had tied with Fiji on Saturday – had picked Japan’s wafer-thin defence during the middle stages and it was left to flashes of brilliance from Hashino – with a try of his own to go with two conversions – and Soejima to bring their game back to life.
Karauna said he was turning his attentions to shoring up Japan’s defensive holes and the run to the end of the season – and possible survival – plays out.
“Attack has been OK for us,” said Karauna. “It’s our depth, our experience that has been the problem. “Over any weekend, we can really play some footy but you have to get the balance or were just going to be where we are all the time, which is at the bottom of the table. We finished ahead of some good teams. But it’s still exciting to win something and I just hope that gives the boys some incentive and some confidence going in to Singapore next week.”