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Heartbreak for hosts Japan as South Africa reach semifinals of Rugby World Cup

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-10-21 16:57
South Africa's Faf de Klerk celebrates scoring their second try during the quarter final the Rugby World Cup 2019 against Japan at the Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, Oct 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - It was heartbreak for Japan as they went down to a superior South African team to miss out on the semifinals as the host's dream run came to an end. Cheered on by 50 thousand fans in Tokyo stadium and around half the nation watching on television around Japan, the host nation gave a spirited performance in defeat.

The 26-3 scoreline did not reflect the closeness of the game that saw both teams have a spell during the game where both dominated the play, however, it was South Africa, with their superior defense and cutting edge that got the significant breakthroughs.

An early try for South Africa by winger Makazole Mapimpi instantly made that game harder for Japan as they trailed 5-0 after just five minutes.

However, the rest of the first half was dominated by the Japanese. The quick, exciting play that had come to define Japanese rugby at this years' World Cup continued in the same fashion.

Unfortunately, for the hosts, they could not make all the possession count. Despite dominating possession and territory for most of the half, by the break, Japan had only notched a solitary penalty to show for all their hard work.

The 5-3 score at the half reflected a game that was exciting as well as being dominated by solid defense.

After the break, the game changed in South Africa's favor. The pre-match favorites and second favorites for the World Cup began to show their quality at the set-piece.

Lineout jumpers Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit were a nightmare for Japan on the set-piece and caused Japan to capitalize on their field positions.

In the first ten minutes of the second half, fly half Handre Pollard added two penalties to take the score up to 11-3.

A penalty and a try for South Africa followed in the 66th minute. Scrum-half, Faf de Klerk broke through to go under the posts and take the score up to 21-3 and out of a flagging Japan's reach.

A final try in the 70th minute sunk Japanese resistance and hearts as winger Mapimpi went over to finish the game off.

At the final whistle, the Japanese fans stayed long after the game to applaud and thank the Japanese team that has lit up the World Cup with their electric displays and underdog victories. Despite falling to one of the pre-tournament favorites, this Japanese team has written itself into rugby folklore as the first Asian team to reach the quarterfinals.

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